This year’s Operation Smile gala brought grins to the faces and tears to the eyes of attendees.
While event host Brooke Burke-Charvet shared touching details about her recent goodwill medical mission, honorees Kate Walsh, Kevin Beggs and Randy Sherman discussed the charity’s impact on the children who have received free surgeries to repair their facial deformities.
Harrison Ford, who has an honorary award of his own, lightened the mood while presenting the Wallis Annenberg Public Service Award to Sherman — founder of Operation Smile’s Southern California chapter. “Thank you for the old man music,” Ford said, referring to his entrance song.
“Newsroom” star Corinne Kingsbury later piggybacked on the actor’s joke, saying “I like my peppy music, thank you.” Kingsbury introduced Walsh, the recipient of the John Connor Humanitarian Award. “I’m not worthy; I’m really honored to be honored,” Walsh said. “I’m Irish/Italian/Catholic so I have some deep seated shame.”
The former “Private Practice” star helped the charity’s annual Celebrity Ski Challenge raise $500,000 this year and hopes to embark on a medical mission in 2014. NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, who won the Founders Circle Award last year, and her son Henry, who was born with a cleft palate, organized the annual competition to raise money for the cause.
“I think we take it for granted here in the U.S. that every kid, if they’re born with this affliction, can fix it at birth, but it’s not so here in the States for people that aren’t covered (by insurance) and it’s also not so internationally,” she said earlier on the red carpet.
Lionsgate’s Michael Burns introduced his friend and John Connor Humanitarian Award-winner Beggs — Lionsgate Television Group chair — who in turn brought out his adopted brother Estuardo Beggs. “Esty” was born in Guatemala with a cleft lip. The orphan was fostered by the Beggses, who funded his corrective surgery and adopted him soon after.
“This particular line of work is really transformational in an immediate way, not only visually, but in terms of health and preventing illness,” Beggs said on the red carpet. “There’s a range of complications that come with cleft palates, a lot of it sickness, because the body’s natural defenses are broken down. So it really is a difference between life and death for almost everybody that is impacted by this.”
Fundraisers included a silent and live auction, in total more than $3 million was raised.