Save the Children – the leading, independent organization for children in need in the United States and around the world – held its 2nd Annual Save the Children Illumination Gala which honored Ben Affleck, The Right Honorable Tony Blair, Austin Hearst, T.J. Maxx, and more.
The event was hosted by Save the Children artist ambassador and trustee Jennifer Garner, and took place on Wednesday, November 19, at The Plaza hotel in New York City. Grammy Award-winning vocalist Trisha Yearwood performed.
“The gala benefited the organization’s efforts to give more children a stronger start in life by helping end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths and supporting early childhood education. In celebration of the occasion, Save the Children honored the following esteemed guests for their achievements in giving children a brighter future:
• The Global Child Advocate Award for Ben Affleck, actor, filmmaker and founder of Eastern Congo Initiative, who was recognized for his dedication to securing a peaceful and stable future for the children of eastern Congo, one of the world’s poorest and most war-torn countries. Through Eastern Congo Initiative, which Mr. Affleck founded in 2010, local organizations in nine rural areas have provided access to quality health services and preventative care for more than 23,000 women and 18,000 children. In these communities, 17 percent of Congolese say their families have suffered from the death of an infant.
• The Global Legacy Award for The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former prime minister, United Kingdom, who was recognized for leading the G8 nations at Gleneagles to pledge to “make poverty history” and steering these nations to agree to relieve $40 billion in debt owed by poverty-stricken countries and also for his continued commitment to Africa through his Foundation – the Africa Governance Initiative.
• The National Humanitarian Award for Austin Hearst, who was recognized for ensuring that children living in some of the poorest parts of the world, including rural America, have an early start on learning. Having served as a Save the Children trustee for more than a decade, Mr. Hearst has helped secure millions of dollars in funding for the organization’s early childhood development work in the United States and around the world.
• The National Responsibility Award for T.J. Maxx, accepted by CEO of TJX Ernie Herrman, which was recognized for supporting Save the Children’s work for over 30 years and providing more than $25 million to help to deliver early childhood education programs to thousands of American children in need.
• The Global Child Service Award for Aziza Begum, a paramedic from Bangladesh who was recognized for rallying the remote Ajmiriganj community and health workers to identify pregnant women early and enroll them in care. The resulting unprecedented increase of successful births at the health facility led the government of Bangladesh to honor the rural government health facility, where she works alongside the government health workers.
• The National Voices for Children Award for Save the Children’s Long Island and Greenwich Leadership Councils, which was recognized for a combined total of 40 years of raising awareness, fundraising, and engaging their local communities to make a difference for children in need throughout the world.
Platinum selling vocalist, Trisha Yearwood performed at the event on the heels of the release of her twelfth studio album, PrizeFighter: Hit after Hit. Trisha is also the host of the Emmy Award-winning Food Network show, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen.
“This year’s gala honorees share an unwavering commitment to giving children living in the poorest, toughest places on earth a stronger start in life. Through their work, more babies and toddlers are getting the right health care, early learning opportunities, and a greater chance to reach their full potential,” said Carolyn Miles, Save the Children president and CEO. “The event was a special evening that shined the spotlight on the outstanding achievements of our guests of honor.”
Ben Affleck paid tribute to the efforts of community organizations working with his foundation in Eastern Congo. “What every day Congolese people do in their communities and the lives of their children to me is nothing short of heroic. And I know a thing about heroic. Every single person we work with in the Congo deserves to wear that cape a lot more than I do,” said Affleck.
Tony Blair, who returned last week from a visit to Sierra Leone, praised those working on the front lines fighting the Ebola crisis. “I reflected that amidst all this anguish and anxiety of the Ebola epidemic, what a thing of beauty it was to see human compassion in action. This is the engine which powers human progress, which insists that suffering be eliminated and injustice overcome.”
Johnson & Johnson announced a $10 million global partnership with Save the Children that has the potential to help millions of children over the next three years. The multi-year commitment will cover core mission support, program support to improve newborn survival, local activation, and gift-in-kind services.
“Tonight marks the beginning of an expanded dedication to Save the Children,” said Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. “We hope that this partnership will inspire innovation to improve the survival and healthy development of children under age 5, especially newborns.”
In addition, Johnson & Johnson will continue to support Save the Children in non-monetary ways, including through advocacy/thought leadership, media/awareness building, and employee engagement, among others.
Additional guests in attendance at the event included Jackie Bezos (philanthropist, Bezos Family Foundation), Lassie (Save the Children Animal Ambassador), Manny Chirico, (honorary chair of the event; CEO, PVH), Dakota Fanning (actor, Night Moves), Nicholas Kristof (columnist, The New York Times), Carolyn Miles (president and CEO, Save the Children), Anne Mulcahy, (chair of the Board of Trustees, Save the Children; former CEO, Xerox), Samantha Power (United States Ambassador to the United Nations), Raj Shah (USAID Administrator), Mark Shriver, (president, Save the Children Action Network), and Sheryl WuDunn (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.)