Holiday of the Heart Gala 2nd Largest Fundraiser Ever
In the ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire the crowd was on its feet, dancing around their chairs and clapping to the beat laid down by HOLA’s rock band as they performed Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
Their music, along with appearances from entertainer Mandy Moore and comedian Jerrod Carmichael, supplied the vibe for a festive evening as students, teachers, board members and civic leaders celebrated HOLA’s 27th year of serving the children of Los Angeles.
Proceeds from this year’s event exceeded $575,000, the 2nd largest amount ever raised at the annual event, helping HOLA to continue its mission.
“I’m very excited to support HOLA tonight, because it expands the consciousness of young people at a time when they need it the most,” said Carmichael, who performed a sketch with HOLA Smart Start students Sheily Melchor and Gabriel Quintana.
Later in the evening Moore performed a sketch with Bridges students Roselin Villa and Roland Pascual.
“It’s exciting to see the potential for growth that HOLA has when people are able to come together on nights like tonight,” said Moore.
“It’s so great to be supported by Mandy and Jerrod,” said HOLA Executive Director Tony Brown, “and our kids were pretty amazing too.”
“I was excited to be able to practice my public speaking,” said Villa, an 8th grader in her 3rd year at HOLA. “I got to tell everyone about HOLA and what we do.”
“I was really excited to go, but also nervous because I had to perform onstage,” said Pascual, “but [Mandy] said, ‘Just talk to me like we’re having a normal conversation,’ and all the nervousness went away.”
“I’ve never been anywhere that fancy,” said Pascual, an eighth-grader who has been attending HOLA for eight years. “It was my first time wearing a tuxedo, so I learned how to wear that!”
Beyond cutlery and cumberbands, Pascual said HOLA programs “help me to gain confidence to do things I didn’t know how to do.”
Eileen Monterroso, a senior who has coming to HOLA for four years, attended the gala for the first time, a guest of donors Jana & Trevor Bezdek.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Monterroso of the gala, before settling into an evening of new experiences.
“It was exciting! The auction was pretty cool,” said Monterroso, “and my family plays music, so to see all those kids [in the band] up there, playing, and how good they were, it was crazy!”
“You think all these famous people who come and give back,” said Monterroso, “and if HOLA can reach [Mandy Moore] and get her to come, how many others have heard of us?”
After the auction, which featured vacation packages to Bali and Nyala and an NBA Game Package at Oracle Arena, the audience gave HOLA’s rock band a standing ovation after a rousing performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
“I love that the kids in the program are able to participate, and show off the great skills that they have amassed because of HOLA programs,” said Moore.
Moore added, “What HOLA provides is essential for giving everyone a shot at growing up and dreaming and doing what they love and finding success and being happy and healthy and prosperous, and I think every kid deserves that.”
This year HOLA presented an award to one of its key partners, AEG, at the conclusion of a gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman accepted HOLA’s award on behalf of his company.
Brown also announced to a ballroom packed with past and new donors alike that the organization, which serves over 2,300 students in the Rampart district, has raised more $9 million dollars toward its capital campaign.
“Our original capital campaign was $10 million, and so far we’ve raised $9.2 million,” said Brown, “We’re so very close. Let’s close that gap before the end of the year!”
“It’s such a beautiful organization,” said Carmichael. “Organizations like HOLA show children that the world really is theirs.”