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The Year In Philanthropy

Giving never goes out of style! From a major gala held in a downtown tunnel to a CAA power agent with heart, We highlight 2013’s luminous events, star players and ways to give back.

The 2013 The Art of Elysium Heaven Gala, held in L.A.’s 2nd Street Tunnel

Lauren Miller

CAA partner Rob Light has raised over $6 million for City of Hope.

Kelly Patricof and Norah Weinstein

The Otis Booth campus in Echo Park is just one of three Children’s Institute Inc.’s major hubs.

Suzy Amis Cameron

The famous ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel

Gala to know: In January 2013, The Art of Elysium hosted its annual Heaven Gala the night before the Golden Globes in downtown Los Angeles’ 2nd Street Tunnel—conveniently blocked off by the LAPD. Each year, the charity taps a different creative director, whom it names its visionary, to determine the theme and venue for the gala, and this year’s honor was bestowed upon Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (Jim Sheridan, Shepard Fairey and Cameron Silver have all previously held the title). Eclectic sites such as the Robinsons-May parking lot, the California Science Center and Union Station have served as prior venues. The 2014 visionary will be musician and songwriter Linda Perry, and although the creative details remain shrouded in secrecy, the date will be, as always, the Saturday before the Golden Globes. The charity’s founder, Jennifer Howell, is confident the clandestine specifics will produce the usual reaction. “After every event, my phone won’t stop ringing,” she shares. “Everyone says, ‘This was my favorite yet!’”

Ballroom to Know: The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, memorably coined the “Reg Bev Wil” in Pretty Woman, has changed many hands of ownership and management over the years. But one thing remains magnificently the same: the legendary ballroom. By the Numbers: 14,300 square feet of space, 880 person capacity, 80 feet of runway space (which comes in handy for the Oscar de la Renta show at The Colleagues Annual Spring Luncheon), 62 charity events held each year, 3 million dollars raised at Operation Smile’s October gala, 1 incredible venue!

Lauren Miller: Hilarity for Charity
It was at her college graduation that Lauren Miller first noticed something was off with her mom. “It was the repetition of questions and stories being told over and over again,” says the 32-year-old actress, screenwriter (her indie film, For a Good Time, Call..., sold at Sundance in 2012) and wife of comedian Seth Rogen. “I knew something wasn’t right.” Indeed it wasn’t, as three years later, Miller’s mother, then 55, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Since then, Miller and Rogen, whom she credits as “the only reason I can stand up and get through it,” have become advocates for the disease. So when a childhood friend of her husband’s came to Miller with an idea for a variety show to benefit the cause, the couple instantly hopped on board. Aiming to fill the awareness gap with the younger generation, the duo, along with friends Matthew Bass, Tum Cohl and Raffi Adlan, focused their energies on doing just that with Hilarity for Charity. Their initial benefit took place in January 2012 at Vibiana in Los Angeles, with a star-studded lineup that included Paul Rudd, Ty Burrell, Jack Black, Aziz Ansari and Bruno Mars. “The energy of that night inspired us to do another event,” Miller remembers. “And while we were planning the second, we realized it wasn’t just an event, it’s a movement.” To that effect, the team will launch HFC U in January, a literal “charity in a box” for college students in which everything they need to throw their own benefit is provided, with the group raising the most funds earning a special screening of Rogen’s latest film on their respective campus or a trip to the next HFC event. Additionally, on the first of every month, HFC holds an eBay auction for five items or experiences, all benefiting the cause. The hope is to stage an HFC event in New York for spring 2014 and, possibly, another in Montreal next summer. “When my mom was first diagnosed, I felt powerless and without hope,” recalls Miller, “but creating Hilarity for Charity and being part of the Alzheimer’s movement has given me hope and made me feel in control. I didn’t realize that if I took action, I would feel better.”

Power Player: Rob Light
Fundraising is in Rob Light’s blood. The head of the music department, partner and managing director of Creative Artists Agency has his mom to thank for the benevolence gene. “I was telling my mother that I was going to be involved in City of Hope, and unbeknownst to me, she was a City of Hope fundraiser when I was 6,” says Light. The year was 1962, and she had successfully raised $2,000 for the California-based nonprofit cancer research and treatment center—a substantial sum in those days. Like mother, like son: The younger Light was honored for his exceptional philanthropic efforts with the Spirit of Life Award at the hospital’s annual Spirit of Life Gala this past September, having raised more than $6 million for the facility. Although Light had attended City of Hope events for years, it became a focus for him in 2010 when Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s Tim Leiweke (that year’s award recipient) asked him to be a dinner chair. “Part of being a dinner chair is going out and actually taking a tour of the facility,” Light explains. “And once you do, you’re hooked. I spent four hours there and was just mesmerized.” Founded in 1913 as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, City of Hope grew in scope to eventually focus on cancer treatment and research. Now considered one of the leading centers for the disease, the hospital has pioneered innovative treatment technologies, including the development of synthetic human insulin and bone marrow transplants. “There are a lot of great causes around the world,” Light points out, “but this one lives on everybody’s front doorstep, so it was really important to me to get involved.” Crediting the power network of CAA for helping him reach his goal, he says, “If I can show future honorees how to successfully rally their own networks, then hopefully I’ll be a big contributor going forward.”

Travel: Volunteerism
Unparalleled hospitality and accommodations notwithstanding, Micato Safaris stands out for its dedication to the greater African community. Micato’s One for One Commitment means that for every safari sold, Micato supports the education fees for an impoverished child. Through its AmericaShare program, the group developed a community center (inclusive of a library, sports center and clean water source) in Kenya’s second-largest slum, Mukuru. Guests can visit Mukuru on any Micato safari that begins or ends in Nairobi and witness the outfitter’s philanthropy in action through its Lend a Helping Hand on Safari program. Charitable work can be integrated into any Micato safari sojourn, peppering luxurious jaunts in the savanna with constructive time in local communities. A good time and a great cause all in one—we’ve just upped the ante on your next vacation.

New In L.A.:A Star is Born
When the iconic Beverly Hills Post Office closed in 1993, a group of concerned locals joined forces to preserve the landmark building and transform it into a dynamic cultural institution. Enter L.A. philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, whose foundation donated $25 million to the project. Now, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has at last debuted, consisting of the masterfully restored post office, as well as an adjacent 500-seat state-of-the-art theater. Poised to become a benchmark of the community, The Wallis’ highly anticipated inaugural season launches Nov. 8 with a performance by the renowned Martha Graham Dance Company. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310.746.4000,

Fab Five: Looking Back: Extraordinary Evenings of 2013
1. Elton John Oscar Party: The legendary singer’s annual viewing party—benefiting the Elton John AIDS Foundation—is always the hottest ticket of awards season. This year’s event, held on Feb. 24 at the Pacific Design Center, raised more than $6 million and was packed as always with John’s A-list friends.

2. An Unforgettable Evening: The Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund’s annual benefit on May 2 once again proved the power connection between the women of Hollywood, bringing in over $1 million—and a performance by Bruno Mars.

3. Sports Spectacular Gala: The long-running event that benefits Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was held on May 19 this year at the Hyatt Regency and raised over $1 million for the hospital. Top athletes, entertainers and community leaders attend each year.

4. Chrysalis Butterfly Ball: Held annually at a Mandeville Canyon private home, the evening’s emcees are always the biggest treat. Actor Max Greenfield played host on June 8, cracking jokes that helped raise $1.4 million for the city’s homeless.

5. Fulfillment Fund Stars Benefit Gala: On Oct. 23, this buzzed-about event raised money (amount not available at press time) for the fund, which helps low-income students attend college. The night featured funnyman Ed Helms as host and a performance by Pharrell Williams.

Kelly Patricof and Norah Weinstein: baby2baby
“So many families have more than they need for their children, and we help put those essentials in the hands of those who don’t,” says Kelly Patricof (pictured left), co-president of Baby2Baby, an organization on a mission to distribute baby gear and clothing to less fortunate families in Los Angeles, helping more than 67,000 children to date. “While our goal to help every low-income child in L.A. is ambitious, even one item can change the life of a family,” says the foundation’s other co-president, Norah Weinstein (pictured right). The concept also draws major celeb power, attracting star moms like Molly Sims, Julie Bowen and Jessica Alba—who not only donates products and a percentage of the profits from her brand, The Honest Company, to the cause, but also frequently pitches in, unloading trucks and attending every board meeting. In fact, since 2011, when the org’s original founders—Karis Jagger, Lee Michel and Marnie Owens—handed over the reins to Patricof (wife of Hollywood producer Jamie Patricof) and Weinstein (whose spouse is CAA head Brian Weinstein), Baby2Baby has grown far beyond its originators’ dreams of finding in-need homes for their overflow of child paraphernalia. Now, it’s a full-time operation with 57 nonprofit partners, including Good Shepherd, Para Los Niños and Los Angeles Mission, plus multiple corporate sponsors—Huggies, Splendid and Old Navy, to name a few. With the help of these companies and other gracious individuals, the organization has dispensed close to 2 million diapers, toys, books and clothes in the last year, and saw its gala raise more than $1 million. Hopes are high that this year’s follow-up, held Nov. 9 and honoring Drew Barrymore, will top that figure. Although Patricof, a former model, and Weinstein, an attorney who has performed pro bono work for low-income women, joke that the program is “our third child,” their message is quite grown-up. Explains Weinstein, “There are 575,000 L.A.-area children in need, and I’d like to help them all.” A seemingly overwhelming number, but “we can take each day to focus on more manageable goals.” In other words, baby steps.

Fashion With Heart
Every Abbot Kinney habitué worth their sartorial salt is turning to the next-level must-have in charitable shoes made by The People’s Movement. The fashion brand has a complete line of footwear for its fall 2013 collection, including riding boots, oxfords, sneakers, a wedge and a Navajo flat, many of which are made from plastic bags found on the beaches of Bali. For every pair purchased, a portion of the proceeds goes to 5 Gyres, a nonprofit helping to halt single-use plastics.

Known for its luxurious cashmere, The Elder Statesman collaborated with an Afghani mill to launch a capsule collection, called The Blue Line. “I was blown away by the yarn and the story, so I thought that it needed its own world to live in,” says founder Greg Chait.

Athletic Activism
Some wear their hearts on their sleeves; others wear a band around their wrist. For L.A. native Brandon Michaels, a 16-year-old tennis player on the USTA junior circuit, the place to sport your affections is also, coincidentally, the key to an effective serve: It’s all in the wrist! Michael’s company, Veza, has created a colorful collection of 12 wristbands made from 100 percent postconsumer, recycled, medical-grade plastic representing a variety of causes (among them are Habitat for Humanity, Wildlife Conservation Network and Michael J. Fox’s Team Fox). Veza supports the organizations by funneling a percentage of the proceeds from bracelets sold to the corresponding foundation. “Veza wristbands are a daily reminder that all of us can make a positive impact on someone [else’s] life,” says Michaels, who enlisted the help of Costa Mesa industrial firm AN Design Lab to execute his vision of a sleek, everyday bracelet.

Charity to Know: “We’re an organization on the move” may be a colossal understatement coming from Children’s Institute Inc. Executive Vice President Nina Revoyr, but it’s true nonetheless. The nonprofit organization helps children heal from the trauma of violence—both domestic and community—by providing support services and youth development programs. In business for more than 100 years, it’s just now experiencing a boom; in addition to the three existing campuses (in Torrance, Koreatown and Echo Park), there’s a fourth state-of-the-art facility set to open in 2017, in Watts. Additionally, there are smaller spots—early childhood centers and child care homes—that continue to open. The Watts center will be the Children’s Institute Inc.’s magnum opus, with a music department in development by Obie award-winner Daniel Beaty. In the mean time, the LEED Silver-certified Echo Park campus serves as headquarters. The foundation has been bolstered with tremendous support over the years from groups like The Colleagues and PSLA, both of whom named the Children’s Institute Inc. as their benefactor at annual fundraising events this year. childrensinstitute.‌org

Suzy Amis Cameron: Muse School
When director James Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, discovered that her preschool daughter, Claire, was learning to count using “really yummy” M&Ms, she was horrified (both from an educational and a dietary standpoint). As a former model who traveled the world, living in Paris for three years, and later as an actress (she met her now-husband on the set of Titanic, playing the daughter of the elderly Rose DeWitt Bukater), she became both vegan and an adamant organic eater. Having previously considered homeschooling her children, but caving to concerns about the lack of social interaction, she decided to take action and launch her own kind of school, her way. Amis Cameron’s sister, Rebecca Amis, had done the same in Wichita, Kan., opening a small school to fit her own values and priorities. Amis then helped her sister to conceive the progressive educational center, now known as Muse. While they originally planned to teach in the guesthouse of the Camerons’ Serra Retreat home in Malibu, the New Roads School offered them a temporary space for rent on their nearby campus. After a year there, they found a permanent home in a bucolic setting on a 22-acre ranch in Topanga Canyon, where the school remains today. It turns out that many parents were like Amis Cameron: also looking for a school like Muse, which encourages passion-based learning and curiosity, and provides instruction about living sustainably. Launched in 2006 with only 11 students, Muse now has an enrollment of more than 130 pupils, from preschool through middle school, with plans to open a high school next fall. Currently, there are eight sister institutions across the globe. To raise money for the nonprofit school (which grants scholarships to more than half of its students), Amis Cameron founded the Red Carpet Green Dress campaign five years ago. Intended to be a one-time contest, the competition, which challenges designers to create gowns made entirely of sustainable materials, is now a worldwide event. This year’s winner, Michael Badger (mentored by fashion icon Vivienne Westwood), saw his dress donned by Bond Girl Naomie Harris at the Oscars. “The motto around the Cameron household has been ‘Go deep or go home,’” says Amis Cameron. Or in her case, go global.