After meeting a 13-year-old named Lyda, Sumner Redstone has turned an entire country of in-need children into one of his most personal causes.
Redstone has made a grant of $500,000 to the Cambodian Children’s Fund, a nonprofit program that provides a wide range of critical health and educational services to impoverished and abused children in the capital city of Phnom Penh.
Org was founded in January 2004 by Scott Neeson, who as president of 20th Century Fox Intl. was involved in films such as “Titanic,” “Braveheart” and “Ice Age.”
In 2003 Neeson became head of Sony Pictures international marketing; he left shortly thereafter to start the charity after witnessing the Cambodian situation during a vacation. Neeson, who now acts as full-time CCF executive director, covered all initial costs for the establishment and operation of the CCF facility.
“From Hollywood to Cambodia was a really tough transition,” Neeson said from his Phnom Penh headquarters. “The biggest was how little power you have here to help people. In Hollywood you can get most things fixed; here there are limitations to what you can do,” he explained.
“I was intrigued that Neeson quit his job and sold everything and went to Cambodia to help these kids,” Redstone told Daily Variety. “I had no idea what went on in Cambodia. When I met him, he had with him a little girl named Lyda. She had been abandoned by her parents like tons of kids. Scott found her at a dump where countless poor (children) lived, scrounging for food or something to sell. She had a back deformity.”
In addition to his donation, Redstone is making 13-year-old scoliosis victim Lyda a personal priority.
“I’ve given big money to big charities, but you never get in touch with the actual person, even though you help a lot of people,” said the philanthropist. “But I met this little girl, and I’ve arranged to have her operated on by a top pediatric surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.”
Currently, the CCF aids more than 250 children through three facilities that provide shelter, food, inhouse health services, cultural classes and a range of educational and vocational training.
Among other projects, Redstone’s contribution will be used to create the Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center, a stand-alone facility scheduled to open this fall for children 5 to 16.
“The amount I gave was very small for me, and I will give more, but it was the maximum amount he can accept without losing his status as a public charity,” said Redstone. “My real motive in getting the story out is to inspire others to help.”