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With musical icons and glamorous celebrities, remarkable philanthropists and four special kids who are on their way to big things in life – Children’s Health Fund’s 27th Annual Benefit was an evening of inspiration, goodwill and hope for the next generation of Americans.
The June 9 event at New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center featured three musical legends – Paul Simon, Dave Matthews and Aaron Neville – in a rare and unforgettable performance. The spectacular Jane Pauley and Julianne Moore roused the audience with a lightning round of fundraising. Four outstanding supporters of Children’s Health Fund received awards of appreciation. The event raised nearly $1.7 million to bring health care to children in need. And, if all that weren’t enough, we announced the launch of a major initiative with our new partner, British luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover, that has the potential to reshape the educational landscape.
Children’s Health Fund co-founder and president Dr. Irwin Redlener and Executive Director Karen Redlener kicked off the evening with an annual tradition – the presentation of the Founders’ and Corporate Awards. The Founders’ Award went to two longtime supporters – Russell L. Carson of the Carson Family Charitable Trust and W. Robert Friedman, Jr., a founding Board member of Children's Health Fund. James E. Flynn of the Deerfield Foundation and Gregory Irace of Sanofi U.S. each received the Corporate Award for their company’s innovative and committed support over the years.
The honorees: Russell L. Carson, W. Robert Friedman, Jr., James E. Flynn and Gregory Irace (Photos: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Children's Health Fund)
In a star-studded evening, perhaps the biggest stars were the four children from our New York programs who accompanied each honoree onto the stage: Brieeanna Rose, Matthew Diaz, Glenn Castro, and Nyomi Diaz. Each had a brief chat with Dr. Redlener, and their answers to “What do you want to do when you grow up?” – ranging from inventor to judge to singer/veterinarian – charmed the crowd.
Dr. Irwin Redlener chatted with each child on stage. (Photo: Joseph Sinnott)
Dr. Redlener went on to unveil our new Healthy and Ready to Learn Initiative, which will bring together health care workers, educators and parents to ensure that children are tested and treated for health conditions that may impede their ability to do well in school. The initiative will launch this fall at three pilot schools in New York City, where we hope to demonstrate howrobust screening and management can overcome health-related barriers to learning.
To cheers from the audience, esteemed journalist and longtime Children’s Health Fund Board Member Jane Pauley announced that Jaguar Land Rover has committed $500,000 to support the pilot initiative at PS 49 in the South Bronx. After the announcement, the school’s principal, Frank Hernandez, movingly spoke about the challenges his students face and how the Health and Ready to Learn initiative promises to make a tremendous difference in the lives of his students.
Impassioned Principal Frank Hernandez. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Children's Health Fund)
Julianne Moore, the renowned actress and great friend of Children’s Health Fund, then joined Jane Pauley on stage for a live fundraising auction that raised $160,000 in just a few minutes to help ensure kids are healthy and ready to learn.
"We hope you all will climb on our bandwagon. Because we need more investors in the future of America’s kids,” Pauley told the crowd.
“I’m a mom, and let me tell you, kids grow up fast,” Moore added. “Kids can’t wait for the health care they need.”
Jane Pauley and Julianne Moore energized the audience. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Children's Health Fund)
Then it was time for the music. And it was certainly worth the wait!
Aaron Neville kicked things off with a soulful medley of love songs.
Aaron Neville started the music on a sweet note. (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Children’s Health Fund)
Dave Matthews followed with a solo set on acoustic guitar.
Dave Matthews rocked the house. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Children's Health Fund)
Then he was joined by Paul Simon for a romp through some of their biggest hits, including Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and Matthews’ “Satellite.”All three singers combined to end the show on a sentimental note with the Robert & Johnny doo-wop tune “We Belong Together” – which Simon said he used to sing with Art Garfunkel when they were first figuring out vocal harmonies. Neville piped up to say he had sung it with his brother during their formative years as musicians, too.
It was a fitting coda to a sparkling evening where everyone was intent on coming together – doctors and nurses, teachers and parents, Children’s Health Fund supporters and partners – and most of all the children who are the focus of everything we do.