In recognition for their compassion and dedicated support for Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), Academy Award winning actress Natalie Portman, prominent philanthropists Sally and Bill Hurt, and global retailer Costco Wholesale were honored during the weekend with the “Courage to Care” award at the hospital’s signature biennial gala: Noche de Niños.
More than 1,200 prominent philanthropists, local dignitaries and supporters joined them at The Events Deck at L.A. LIVE and helped raise more than $3.1 million in unrestricted funds which allow the hospital to fill its most critical needs, such as patient care, medical research and families in need.
“What I quickly learned about the hospital was that it’s the kind of place that’s easy to support, because they make it all about the kids,” said Portman, a steadfast supporter and hospital volunteer. “These kids go through more before they’re eighteen than most of us will know in a lifetime. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to spend time with so many amazing kids over the years, and have been touched by their spirit and strength.”
“There’s no better investment that human capital,” said Bill Hurt, who, along with his wife Sally, has generously invested in the Children’s Hospital Institute for Medical Education to provide the most advanced education and training available to Children’s Hospital and community clinicians, ensuring patients always benefit from the latest medical knowledge. "The people who should be honored tonight are not people like us, but the 600 doctors, the 1300 nurses and the 400 researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles who have devoted their lives and spend seven days a week, 365 days to care for and comfort and bring comfort to kids.
The “Carnaval Blanco” themed celebration kicked off with a performance by native Brazilian and acclaimed GRAMMY winning music producer, composer, keyboardist, and vocalist Sergio Mendes and Brasil 2014. Guests were treated to special pizza hors d’oeuvres in honor of 3-year-old CHLA patient Hazel Hammersley, who gained international fame last year when her mother posted “Send Pizza” to their hospital room window. Hazel—who now has “no evidence of disease” after undergoing cutting-edge stem therapy treatments at CHLA for neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer in children—is exemplary of the hospital’s innovative, compassionate care and the importance of philanthropic support, which helps ensure other children like Hazel receive the very best care.
“Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is so near and dear to our heart, they saved our daughter’s life,” said Hazel’s mom, Lauren Hammersley. “The fact that we’re able to be here with our healthy daughter is beyond words. Knowing that the hospital we were treated at was one of the top hospital for her type of cancer specifically was so encouraging for our family knowing she was going to get the best care. And on top of that, she had the best doctors and nurses that anyone could ask for, so that was just the icing on the cake.”
Guests enjoyed cuisine by Wolfgang Puck while Maria Menounos, E! host, actor, reporter, filmmaker, producer, founder of Take Action Hollywood and best-selling author, guided everyone through evening as master of ceremonies. The program featured hospital heroes, shared stories of hope and courage and highlighted the generosity and support of the night’s honorees. The gala concluded with a headline set from chart-topping artist and four-time GRAMMY winner Seal.
Attendees included Teri Hatcher, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Denise Richards, Melanie Griffith, Colin Egglesfield and James Van der Beek, as well as award presenters Rashida Jones, Jamie Lee Curtis and CHLA Board of Trustees co-Chair, Ted Samuels.
The event – proudly sponsored by Delta Air Lines, Costco Wholesale, Kristin and Jeffrey Worthe, Erling West, Jr. Trust; Lisa and Adam Stoll, Carol and David Bienstock – was inspired by 11-year-old terminal cancer patient, Dustin Meraz, whose last wish was to encourage adults to have the “courage to care.”