“True Blood” star Joe Manganiello has been sober for many years now, but admitting he had a problem didn’t come easy.
“Sixteen years ago…I crashed and washed ashore on the banks of sobriety,” Manganiello said while accepting the Spirit of Sobriety award on Friday night at the Brent Shapiro Foundation for Drug Prevention’s 13th annual Summer Spectacular Event.
“When I was growing up, when I thought of an alcoholic, I thought of some toothless old guy in a trench coat in a basement somewhere,” he said, adding, “I just never thought that would apply to me. That type of stigma kept me from getting the help that I needed when I knew I needed it.”
Hosted by celebrity attorney Robert Shapiro and “Extra” television personality Mario Lopez, stars in attendance included defense attorney Gloria Allred, Larry King, “The Brady Bunch” actress Maureen McCormick, Rick and Kathy Hilton, as well as Manganiello’s wife Sofia Vergara.
Robert and his wife Linell Shapiro, along with their son Grant, started the foundation in 2005 after a bad combination of drugs and alcohol lead to the death of their eldest son, Brent.
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In his memory, the Shapiros started Brent’s Club in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Today there are more than 2,000 kids enrolled. The program is a sober club for middle and high schoolers, dedicated to helping children in at-risk communities abstain from drug and alcohol abuse. Each week, Brent’s Clubs members around the country take a voluntary, saliva-based drug test, and kids that stay clean and sober all throughout high school are rewarded with a full scholarship to college when they graduate.
“If you reward kids for not using drugs, they can succeed,” Shapiro told a ballroom full of 650 guests supporting the fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton.
The foundation’s goal is to “change the way kids view peer pressure,” Manganiello said, not only by rewarding them periodically prizes like laptops and iPads, but by getting them involved in activities in their community like surfing, art and music.
While the Shapiro’s goal is to open four more clubs in the next year, their long term goal is even more ambitious — to have a Brent’s Club open in every city that has a professional sports franchise. “It will send a message that the athletes are all testing and are all drug free,” Shapiro said.
To meet their fundraising goal, one-of-a-kind items and experiences were auctioned off, including a pair of Louboutin heels with the trademark red soles drawn on and signed by the designer himself; a brand new 2019 Ferrari Portofino; a vacation on Marlon Brando’s private island; a walk-on role on “Ray Donovan”; and a one-on-one interview and breakfast date with Larry King.