UPDATED: Sean Penn was every bit the formidable champion of human rights and social action Saturday night at the Haiti Rising Gala benefiting J/P Haitian Relief Organization held at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“Come on, man, these people are dying over here,” said Penn, a cigarette tucked behind his ear, appealing to the ballroom filled with movie stars and business entrepreneurs bidding on luxury auction prizes. “We need your help.”
In addition to Penn, the event was co-hosted by Bryan Lourd and Sean and Alexandra Parker, and presented by Lynne and Marc Benioff. Also in the crowd were Pamela Anderson, Jeffrey Tambor, Ed Norton, Nick Jonas, Patricia Arquette, Leonardo DiCaprio (who donated $125,000 dollars in exchange for custom artwork by Ed Ruscha), and Courtney Love, who bid $50,000 for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour dress.
A record $37 million was committed to J/P HRO and their initiatives in Haiti, which included contributions from the Government of France, The Parker Foundation, and World Bank, along with proceeds from the live auction.
Paul Farmer, founding director and chief strategist of Partners in Health, was honored with the Garry Shandling Humanitarian Award, named for the legendary comedian who, upon his recent death, left $1 million to J/P HRO.
Bill Maher emceed the fundraiser, praising Penn as “truly a man of action, whether you need someone to show up with a rowboat in a flood or interview El Chapo.”
Founded by Penn in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, J/P HRO has worked to provide emergency medical care, food and shelter, and other essential aid to the Caribbean nation, which suffered another devastating blow in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew pummeled the southern half of the country. What began as 30 Americans has since grown to a full-time staff of 130 Haitians working tirelessly to restore what was ruined, as well as build toward a brighter, stronger tomorrow, which includes the implementation of a large-scale reforestation project.