L.A. Family Housing presented Dwayne Johnson with its highest honor: the Inspiration Award. The actor accepted the trophy Thursday night during an emotional ceremony where victims of homelessness, including Johnson himself, shared their stories.
Members of Hollywood and other distinguished guests gathered at The Lot in West Hollywood for the awards dinner, hosted by actor P.J. Byrne. Throughout the night, guests bid on various auction items to support the organization’s humanitarian mission, including house seats at a U2 concert that went for $15,000 and an eight day European cruise that went for a total of $16,000.
For the eighth year in a row Blair Rich, Warner Bros. president of worldwide marketing and home entertainment chaired the event, which culminated in speeches from her and Johnson. Ahead of the dinner, Rich called Johnson “the most inspiring person I’ve ever met.”
“He always talks about his journey and overcoming odds to become who he is today, so I can’t really think of anybody who stands for this issue of overcoming adversity and how poverty doesn’t have to be the limitation or definition of who you are more than Dwayne Johnson,” Rich said.
After a high school girl and family helped by LAFH spoke about their struggles with low income and limited access to basic health and living needs, Johnson recounted his past experience with homelessness during his acceptance speech.
“When I was 14, we were evicted,” he said. “Me and my mom and my dad — I grew up an only child — we were evicted from Hawaii, and we were forced off the Island. We didn’t have a place to live, and I know what that’s like.”
Johnson had to pause at moments to keep his composure during his speech, in which he also detailed his grandmother’s battle with homelessness and his separation from his family. He also recalled coming home to eviction notices and having to steal food from grocery stores to bring back to motels as he bounced from city to city across the country.
“Why this award is really special to me is that I know what it’s like not to have the security of a home,” Johnson said.
The “Rampage” star also reminded other Hollywood attendees in the room of of their elevated positions and thanked them for supporting a cause that could have helped him and his family when he was growing up.
“Sometimes the families are so removed from us, we don’t know who they are,” Johnson said. “Well, what you give tonight, you would have been giving to me.”
The ceremony also honored first lady of Los Angeles Amy Elaine Wakeland with the Sydney M. Irmas Outstanding Humanitarian Award. Others attendees included mayor Eric Garcetti, Cameron Boyce, Dermot Mulroney, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. By the end of the night, the event raised a record total of $1.65 million for individuals and families in need. Rich made the highest donation of the night at $25,000, after another bidder challenged her to match his donation by raising her initial bid of $20,000.
“Last year we helped over 7,000 people. We put 644 families into permanent housing, and that doubled from five years ago. So we are growing,” Rich said. “The event is growing, the support is amazing, but the need is there, and we have a lot to do.”