Los Angeles, September 17, 2020 – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) honored outstanding members of the Los Angeles community at ‘The Big Night In’ virtual gala. Producer, writer and director Kenya Barris received the Defender of Potential Award, producer Jane Cha Cutler was honored with the 2020 Sherry Lansing Award, and Richard and Demi Weitz took home the Walt Disney Philanthropists of the Year Award. Lizeth Guevara was honored as the 2020 BBBSLA Big Sister of the Year and Chris Smith was honored as the 2020 BBBSLA Big Brother of the Year. Netflix served as the Presenting Sponsor of ‘The Big Night In’ gala, which benefits youth facing adversity from underserved communities in Los Angeles by providing and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships.
‘The Big Night In’ kicked off with a DJ set by D-Nice during virtual red carpet arrivals, followed by the official program. After a warm welcome from the evening’s co-hosts, Mike Shumard and Little Sister Aneya, BBBSLA began the awards portion of the evening.
TV personality and model Tyra Banks introduced the first honoree, black-ish creator Kenya Barris and presented him with the Defender of Potential Award sharing, “I have known this man for so long, and Kenya, his talent is crazy. I saw it before black-ish hit – that’s when the world recognized how much of a genius he was and how daring he was, how bold he was, how strong his voice was, and he is only getting the recognition that he has been due.”
Upon accepting his honor, Barris said, “I feel like the organization as a whole is exactly what this award is to me. It’s an award to defend potential. What you guys do for children who, like me, are looking for something or someone that they can look to for guidance and love and support, is something that I think is so under-expected and underrepresented in the world. I hope that more people understand and continue to support what you guys do for people, where other people may not see the potential.”
Film producer Nina Jacobson introduced the next honoree, Project Runway producer Jane Cha Cutler and presented her with the 2020 Sherry Lansing Award, saying, “Jane is a powerful force in the industry and shining role model for so many people, especially women and people of color who so rarely see someone who looks like them on top of the creative food chain. Two years ago, Jane was matched with her little sister Angelica for what was supposed to be a yearlong program, but is now a relationship that will last a lifetime.”
After receiving the award, Cutler shared, “Being a Big Sister has been a privilege that has brought more gratification than I ever could have imagined. If I’ve been able to have even a fraction of the effect on my ‘little sister’ Angelica that she has had on me, I consider myself extremely fortunate. The work that BBBSLA does day-in and day-out is so important. Sometimes a young person needs just one other person to talk to, to have them gently guide and reassure her that she is seen. In my case, it would have been impossible to miss because my ‘little sister’ shone like the star she is from the outset. I am deeply honored to accept the Sherry Lansing Award, and I plan to redouble my efforts on behalf of BBBSLA in an attempt to fill the very large footsteps of the honorees I follow.”
To conclude the program, Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger presented the Walt Disney Philanthropists of the Year Award to WME partner Richard Weitz and his daughter Demi Weitz, sharing, “Walt Disney was fond of saying ‘it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ Demi and Richard, to accomplish all that you have done, benefiting so many people, so many different causes and organizations, probably seemed quite impossible back in March when you got this started. But with great heart, enthusiasm and determination – and we certainly know you both have a lot of that – you have demonstrated the truth of Walt’s words in a very real, very very tangible way. So thank you for showing us all what is possible and for enriching the lives of so many people at such a critical time.”
Richard Weitz accepted their award and said, “Life works in mysterious ways, and when you put others in need before yourself, good things will happen. And that’s what we did, and what we will continue to do.” Demi Weitz added, “I’ve been given the opportunity to have an amazing education, to have an amazing family, and to have my voice be heard during this pandemic, and what Big Brothers Big Sisters does is so vital and all of these kids need mentors so they too can use their voice and have the resources to change the world.”
Following the program, guests joined a virtual Disney-themed RWQuarantunes after party featuring live musical performances of Disney songs. Actress Jodi Benson sang “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, award-winning musician Michael Bolton performed “Go the Distance” from Hercules and singer Vanessa Williams sang “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas and gave an impromptu rendition of her hit, “Save the Best for Last.” Israeli singer Netta, 2018 winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, as well as her original song “I’m Not Your Toy.” Actor Josh Gad, known for voicing Olaf in the Frozen franchise, also made an appearance, as did Auliʻi Cravalho, voice of Moana, who performed both a rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” and a short version of “You’re Welcome.”
‘The Big Night In’ gala was presented by Netflix. Other co-sponsors included Amazon Studios, The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation, City National Bank, IMAX, Mar Vista Investment Partners and Union Bank.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives, 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 and one of the largest youth mentoring organizations in Southern California.
To learn more, visit www.BBBSLA.org
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