It was a night to be inspired as Hollywood turned out to celebrate the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles Big Bash Gala at the Beverly Hilton hotel.
The Last Ship star Travis Van Winkle shared his thoughts on what it meant to him, to have served as a Big Brother for over five years. “It’s so beautiful. I show up so much for my little brother and it allows me the opportunity to walk the walk. All of the things that I’m teaching him and I’m inspiring him on, I have to live that, and so for me it’s really given me a platform to become a man and to really stand in my shoes in a more grounded way,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
The evening began with a song by former American Idol contestant Syesha Mercado, which was followed by heartfelt testimonials from participants in the program, who shared their stories about how being a Big Brother or Sister had changed their lives.
Van Winkle served as the gala’s MC and he bounded across the stage with tireless energy and even channeled his inner Ellen DeGeneres as he danced through the audience and pulled people to their feet.
Fox Networks executive vp Rita Tuzon was honored with the Sherry Lansing award for mentoring a young girl named Lolly, who arrived from Mexico in the seventh grade speaking no English, and who now has a 4.0 GPA as a senior in high school.
Board member Sherry Lansing was in attendance and she spoke about how the program had impacted the lives of the young girls who participated in the program. “This mentoring program has changed so many girls’ lives who have been exposed to executives. They’re seeing a whole new world in the entertainment industry and a lot of them, I think, are going to follow through and have careers in the entertainment industry,” she said.
Shark Tank star and new father Daymond John was given the Walt Disney Man of the Year award for his participation in the program, and he dedicated his award to all of those who had committed their lives to mentoring young people, but weren’t recognized for their efforts. “I appreciate the acknowledgment and I want to make sure that I’m accepting it on behalf of an undervalued commodity such as teachers and parents and people who do this on an everyday basis,” said John. “I think that I’m only scratching the surface in regards to how many more young people I can influence and change their lives to become a person better than me.”
Other stars who came out for the evening included John’s fellow Shark Robert Herjavec and Hollywood Today Live host Garcelle Beauvais.
Sabin Lomac (co-founder of Cousins Main Lobster) was given the Big Brother of the Year award, and Stephanie Kurtz was recognized as the Big Sister of the Year for the greater Los Angeles area.
Big Bash Gala raised over $640,000 to support the organization. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters program works to provide mentors for at-risk youth.