Even an impressive lineup of celebrity performers could not keep the kids from stealing the show at the SeriousFun Children’s Network gala at the Dolby Theatre Thursday. The org — which serves children living with serious illnesses — honored Paul Newman, who founded the network, and his legacy in what would be his 90th year. Two renditions of Katy Perry’s “Roar” sung by children served by SeriousFun in the company of celebrities including Michael Keaton, Annette Bening, Renee Zellweger, Anjelica Huston and Danny Devito opened and closed the evening.
“How do you not come to something like this?” asked Keaton before the show. “I’ve been an admirer of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward for a really long time. Not just because of these camps, but how they live their lives. They were really authentic, and are really authentic.”
That legacy of authenticity is vital to the organization, according to SeriousFun CEO Mary Beth Powers. “Day in and day out I worry about how we’re going to pay for camp every summer, or some of the other mundane things that a CEO has to do,” she said. “But tonight it’s really about celebrating the difference that we make in kid’s lives. You’re going to see kids who have confidence, who have spirit in part because of what they got at camp.”
Powers emphasized that with 30 camps worldwide, the camps are a global effort. Her mission for events like the Los Angeles gala is “to get people to realize there are kids all over the world who are in need of just the chance to be a kid again.”
But according to DeVito, the experience of being part of the gala is mutually beneficial. “The kids get so much out of it, and we do too,” he said. “So they give to us, we give back to them.” During the show, campers donning bowler hats joined DeVito onstage to sing a rendition of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” led by Burt Bacharach.
Huston joined in to praise the organization for its dedication to the children, saying that it gives them “a chance to live life like real kids, and breathe fresh air and have some fun.”
The evening was — as the organization’s name suggests — both fun and emotional, and also included performances from guests including Zellweger, Jamie Foxx, Jay Leno, Natalie Cole and Carole King.
The Los Angeles gala was the second of three this year — one already took place in New York with George Clooney and Meryl Streep, and another will occur in London in November. The show was co-produced by Lou Adler who, along with his wife Page, co-founded the SeriousFun camp located in Southern California.