Lee Daniels, John O'Hurley Raise Money for Education in Africa at Unstoppable Foundation Gala
Actors Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q co-chaired the 10th anniversary event at The Beverly Hilton.
The Golden Globes' venue took on a different purpose Saturday night, as the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom hosted the Unstoppable Foundation 10th Anniversary Gala.
Among those in attendance for the gala and live auction were Empire creator Lee Daniels and actor John O'Hurley, producer Barnet Bain and Heaven Can Wait actress Dyan Cannon, while Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q co-chaired the event.
Since sponsors provided everything from the centerpieces to the napkins, 100 percent of the proceeds went to the cause: $1.4 million to support education and empowerment in Africa.
The Unstoppable Foundation, launched by Cynthia Kersey, provides education, clean water, health care, nutritious food and training for parents to create a sustainable, improved lifestyle for families around the world. The charity has educated 35,000 kids in the past decade in countries including Uganda, Liberia and Kenya.
"Being an African-American, you come from poverty," Daniels said. "I thought I came from an impoverished place. This is next level."
O'Hurley said children have a large place in his heart, and told THR that education is key to empowerment, so individuals can become "self-sufficient." To the crowd, he said, "It's a wonderful idea to instill a child with what they imagine has value, to give them the sense of stillness to allow their mind to wander."
The evening recognized two women responsible for empowering others. The 2018 Unstoppable Achievement Award went to Mama Jane from Emori Joi, Kenya, where they used mud huts for classrooms. It was the first community the Unstoppable Foundation supported in Kenya, and now Mama Jane has made a living for herself raising chickens, goats and a cow. She was voted leader of a 600-person women's group in her community.
CEO Sandy Gallagher also was honored; her Proctor Gallagher Institute matched donations up to $500,000 to the Unstoppable Foundation.
Guests dined on a roasted golden and red beet salad with grapefruit and goat cheese, followed by an organic chicken risotto dish or a vegan polenta and eggplant option. The final course was a baked blueberry cheesecake with chantilly cream and white chocolate — and the wine flowed all night.
Each attendee also took home a Rafiki (friend) bracelet "made with love by an Unstoppable Mama in Kenya" with black, white and gold beads.
In between speeches, performers shared uplifting tunes. Janice Freeman (The Voice) belted out a powerful rendition of "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman, with the Jeff Lams Band and denim-clad dancers behind her.
The Kenyan Boys Choir took to the stage three times to perform upbeat songs in Swahili and English. The drummer pounded, and they danced to the final number, "One Love" by Bob Marley.
The live auction led by Shawn Parr — an announcer for the Golden Globe Awards — featured a range of "creative" prizes — "I do maybe 30 charities a year. I have never seen auction items like you all have assembled here," O'Hurley said — including a weeklong trip to Kenya with a safari, five days at a Zen training center in Seattle, and a feature article and interview on Forbes.com about the winner's business (which sold for $29,000).
Toward the end of the night, founder Kersey delivered a tearful speech to thank the crowd.
"You should see the children grasp at the pencils. Just a pencil is precious to them, because they're so eager to learn," Kersey said. "It's not a handout. These communities are committed."