Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Greater Los Angeles Honors Nina Jacobson, Michael Green, Anthony Lynn, And Kim Baldonado
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) honored outstanding members of the Los Angeles community at the annual Big Bash Gala on Friday, November 15, 2019, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills. Nina Jacobson, Founder and CEO of Color Force productions, received the 2019 Sherry Lansing Award, entrepreneur Michael Green received the 2019 Walt Disney Executive of the Year Award, Anthony Lynn, Head Coach for the Los Angeles Chargers, received the inaugural Defender of Potential Award in absentia. Kim Baldonado, the NBCLA Emmy Award winning reporter, was honored as the 2019 BBBSLA Big Sister of the Year. Mike Shumard was the evening's emcee and led the fundraising appeal. Actress Heather Hemmens (If Loving You Is Wrong; Roswell, New Mexico) presented her testimonial as a mentor and 'Big Sister'. The BBBSLA Big Bash Gala benefits youth facing adversity from underserved communities in Los Angeles.
After a warm welcome, Emcee Mike Shumard invited 6 pairs of matches (paired Big mentors, with Little mentees) to the stage to talk about what the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization means to them. The testimonials about activities, schoolwork, shared experiences and mutual bonds were heartwarming, humorous and inspiring.
BBBSLA Board Chair, Brock Moseley spoke of the importance that a Big Brother had on his own life, growing up in Los Angeles. Moseley introduced the Vision for Tomorrow initiative. "In Los Angeles today, we are not waiting for kids to join BBBSLA, we are going to them. Of the kids in need of mentors, 55% are at the lowest economic level in our county, and 90% are people of color." There are more than 200 Los Angeles children waiting to be matched with a 'Big'. Moseley noted "Vision for Tomorrow will take time and investment, but it's important for the future of our region." Moseley recognized Cynthia Bengtson Budzyn, who founded Big Sisters of Los Angeles in 1978, and which is now part of the collective BBBSLA organization.
Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, introduced producer Nina Jacobson, as a trailblazer, saying "I'm her cheerleader from afar." She noted that Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games is an example of the smart fearless women characters that Jacobson creates, and that her films highlight diversity of race, gender and personality. Lansing continued, "Nina is an inaugural mentor in the Young Executive Program, developed by The Hollywood Reporter, in conjunction with BBBSLA." Upon accepting her honor, Jacobson quoted, "You can't be, what you can't see." She believes that for young people, seeing someone who looks like them on screen, doing something new and different, is important and aspirational. She noted the well documented rise in women involved in the forensic sciences since the debut of the CSI crime series and, on a lighter note, the surge of women's involvement in archery since the advent of The Hunger Games movies and Disney's Brave. Jacobson commented that the social response to Crazy Rich Asians, has been unprecedented, positive and empowering for many Asian Americans. Jacobson was accompanied to the stage by Jasmine, her mentee in the Young Executive Fellowship Program.
Following dinner, Heather Hemmens spoke of her "20 years as a mentor success story." She credits a personal mentor for showing her life's possibilities. Hemmens grew up in the Maine woods, without electricity and indoor plumbing. "There was plenty of love, but food and clothes were a struggle," she said. A teacher took an interest in Hemmens, modeled a way to live and advance, and Hemmens "made the jump from surviving to thriving." Hemmens has been matched with her own 'Little' for four years. "We see our matches, we believe in them, we watch them rise. It changes them," she said. During his testimonial as a mentor, Big Brother Chris Smith spoke warmly of Rovan, his 'Little'. Smith was able to support and reassure Rovan and his mother, following a recent home burglary.
Actor and writer, Rob Steinman introduced Mike Green as the "man with the biggest heart I know," and presented him with the 2019 Disney Executive of the Year Award. Green's company, Dakota Financial LLC, outgrew its office space with several years left on the lease. Rather than securing a subtenant, Green offered the space up to BBBSLA for the remaining contract. Upon receiving the award, Green observed, "I am absolutely delighted that fate brought me closer to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I was able to do my small part in securing a home for the organization. I can only believe that the collective sum of all of our efforts can truly make a difference."
Lauren Plichta, BBBSLA VP of Development and Marketing, and Daniel Rodriguez, presented the inaugural Defender of Potential Award to Anthony Lynn, Head Coach of the LA Chargers. Coach Lynn was traveling for an away game and accepted his award in a heartfelt video appearance. He spoke of the importance of mentors and role models in his youth. "The men that stepped up for me were often coaches, and now I am one too," he said.
Kim Baldonado, the six-time Emmy award winning NBCLA news reporter, was presented with the award for 2019 BBBSLA Big Sister of the Year award by Lauren Plichta. In accepting her honor Baldonado noted that her 'Little' Emily was unable to attend, because she was the music director of the musical Chicago at her high school, and it was opening night. Speaking of her pride in her 'Little', Baldonado noted, "Emily already possessed the potential and drive. She just needed someone to guide her, to encourage her, and to expose her to possibilities. That's what being a Big has allowed me and all the Bigs to do. I will be forever grateful that I have been able to live up to the words of Emerson and leave the world just a little bit better by being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters."
Mike Shumard led the gathering in a spirited fundraising appeal, that included several live auction items. Guests bid enthusiastically on premium courtside tickets to a Clippers Game, a deluxe condominium stay in Nashville, a 7 day stay in a seaside villa in Fiji, and several "unlimited" packages to destinations in Mexico. The gala evening raised more than $500,000 for BBBSLA programs that match Bigs and Littles and provide valuable services for underserved youth of Los Angeles.
The 2019 Big Bash Gala was made possible through the generous support of Title Sponsor Shamrock Holdings; Matchmaker Sponsors Cit/OneWest Bank, Cit/National Bank, McKinsey & Company, Wedgewood Inc; Reception Sponsor Adriana & Jay Balaban; and Benefactor Sponsors Amazon Studios, The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation, The Walk Disney Company, ICM Partners, Jeffrey & Marilyn Katzenberg, The Sherry Lansing Foundation, Marvista Investments and Silas Myers, Brock and Susan Moseley, Netflix, NBCUniversal, and Union Bank.
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF GREATER LOS ANGELES provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change the lives of both, for the better, forever. Many of the youth in this program come from extremely challenging circumstances at home, at school or in their neighborhood, yet they have enormous potential. BBBSLA volunteer mentors accept the mission to be Defenders of Potential. With the support of their mentors, these students are beating the odds in BIG ways - many of them being the first in their family to go to college. 96% of the youth who have a Big Brother or Big Sister are graduating from high school and 94% of them are going on to pursue higher education. Founded by Walt Disney and Meredith Willson in 1955, BBBSLA is a leading non-profit in the Los Angeles community. To learn more, visit www.BBBSLA.org.