While Paramount was celebrating box office success with “Bad Grandpa,” it was all about the kids at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Rising Stars Gala at the Beverly Hilton Oct. 26.
Par’s domestic marketing and distribution prexy Megan Colligan received the org’s Sherry Lansing Award, for her work volunteering with the program. Lansing herself introduced the award, which would be presented by Par’s vice chairman Rob Moore, and gave credit to both Moore and Colligan for simply being there.
“It shows how loyal Rob and Megan are to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program because tonight, as we sit here, everybody else in the world is watching ‘Bad Grandpa,’” Lansing joked. (The film was on track for a $30M opening weekend.)
The Big Brothers Los Angeles branch was co-founded by Walt Disney and Meredith Willson in 1955, with Big Sisters being incorporated years later. The program matches at-risk youth with adults who serve as mentors.
Kevin Frazier, co-host of “omg! Insider,” hosted the evening, and started the night lightly while acknowledging the impact the program can have.
“Where was the program when that girl Lindsay and that guy Justin were going through?” he asked in jest.
Time was also given to the “Bigs” and “Littles” in the program. One Big, Joe, described his first meeting with his Little, Bill.
“He was just quietly staring at me while I tried to get him to play pool,” Joe told the audience. “Years later, he told me he was thinking, ‘What does this white guy want from me?’ The truth is, I grew up with five sisters, and I wanted a brother!”
The audience was also treated to a performance by Jodi Benson, best known for providing the voice of Ariel for Disney classic “The Little Mermaid.” Along with performing her trademark number “Part of Your World,” she recalled her experience with the Big Sisters Program as a senior in high school, and her first time meeting her Little.
“When I first did it, it was kind of like, ‘Hmm, I got a lot going on with my own life right now. I don’t know if I really want to give,’” she said. “And I realized after the first meeting we had together that this is really amazing.”
Roy P. Disney was honored with the Walt Disney Man of the Year Award, presented by Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger. While accepting the award, he spoke about his grandfather, Roy Oliver Disney, as well as Walt Disney. He noted that Roy Oliver was born before Walt, making him the Big and Walt the Little, and recalled some situations where that came into play.
“Roy Oliver had to check himself out of a veterans’ hospital out in Santa Monica — he was still suffering from tuberculosis he contracted in World War I — to help a floundering, but promising little brother who kept repeatedly going bankrupt,” he laughed.
Cynthia Bengtson-Budzyn also received the Trailblazer award.
There was also a silent auction to raise funds for the program, and thousands of dollars were donated during the show.