Children’s Institute virtual gala sparkles, raises $470,000

| December 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

MARTINE SINGER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, has helmed the Children’s Institute since 2016.

Confined to computer screen Zoom rectangles, the Children’s Institute’s third annual Cape & Gown Gala on Dec. 12 none-the-less sparkled in this difficult fundraising season. Emcee Loni Love, a comedian, Emmy Award-winning television host and actress, dazzled in cranberry-hued sequins while entertaining with humor and enthusiasm, and President and CEO Martine Singer warmly welcomed us in a poinsettia-red dress by her flickering fireplace.

Over 200 households clicked into the virtual event, totaling 500 people, including Larchmont Chronicle neighbors Gene Straub, executive vice president and chief finance and operating officer of the Children’s Institute (CII), with his wife Janneke Straub, director of leadership gifts for the LA Opera. Other local participants included one of the gala’s sponsors, Suzanne Rheinstein, as well as Stuart Gibbs, Chip Sellers, Trisha Cardoso and Christine Woertink.

Instead of the typical swag bags provided attendees at fundraising events, CII’s virtual guests each got delivery of a gourmet nibble box curated by chef Nyesha Arrington and wine from vineyard partner Ceja Vineyards. A raffle awarded one $5,000 Neiman Marcus shopping spree.

COMEDIAN AND ACTRESS LONI LOVE emceed the virtual gala with humor and enthusiasm.

Loni Love kept guests engaged and prodded them to dig deep in support of CII helping upwards of 30,000 children and families in need in Los Angeles each year. She described giving categories that ranged from $250, which provides two children with backpacks stuffed with a year’s worth of school supplies, to $20,000 to pay for a year of support for a new mother. By evening’s end $470,000 was raised to fund CII’s five dedicated buildings across Los Angeles, including a mid-Wilshire location on South New Hampshire Avenue.

Although their 2019 in-person gala raised $1.2 million before expenses, Singer, a former long-time Windsor Square resident and past executive director of Hollygrove, believes the foray into cyber space managed to capture the spirit of the organization. “While we couldn’t be together in person this year, I felt just as connected with everyone because I know we all believe in children.”

The night’s program emphasized CII’s many achievements since its founding in 1906 and its equally numerous needs. The fundraising gala included video pieces highlighting CII’s work to provide preschool education, behavioral health help, trauma training for caregivers and parenting information. Former clients who now take active roles in the organization shared their stories, including Yarelly Rosas, now a peer counselor and LaRae (no surname given), their community outreach ambassador. LAPD deputy chief and member of the CII Board of Trustees Emada E. Tingirides spoke for the broader community, noting, “People want validation that they’re just as important as anyone else who lives anywhere in the city.”

Celebrity luminaries lent their voices: film director Rob Reiner addressed the importance of early education and singer Billie Eilish spoke in support of the need for mental health assistance, both fundamental to CII’s mission.

Social justice was the focus of the keynote speech from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery. While discussing his investigation into events in Ferguson, Missouri and other instances of police shootings, the writer emphasized that a journalist’s job was to “contextualize” and “help people understand.” In response to LaRae’s young son Royalty shyly asking what he could do to help, Lowery responded, “Our responsibility as citizens is to create the world we want.”

The Children’s Institute is one place where concerned individuals who want to make a difference can find a home. CII has two auxiliary groups for volunteers: the Colleagues, whose resale boutique and annual luncheon has contributed over $25 million since 1950, and the C.H.I.P.S. (Colleagues Helpers in Philanthropic Service) which provides CII with programming and fundraising support.

Singer reflects on the Children’s Institute’s work: “Our programs support families who have seen the greatest injustices and been hit the hardest by COVID-19.  We see up close, every day, how trauma impacts their health and well-being. … We will continue to fight for justice and a brighter future for all our kids.”

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Category: Entertainment

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