With hundreds of blue balloons floating from the tables and into the soaring ceiling of Cipriani Wall Street in New York on Monday night, Worldwide Orphans was busy setting records at its annual gala.
Each balloon represented an additional donation made by a guest. The balloons, along with the night’s auction, brought a whopping $1 million. The yearly bash, now in its 14th iteration, always draws a healthy coterie of bold faced names, and this time around included a trio of unmistakable women all rallying around Worldwide Orphans CEO and founder, Dr. Jane Aronson.
Among them, Naomi Watts, who served as hostess for the evening and went on to highlight the past 21 years of success at WWO. She recognized the 130,000 children whose lives were transformed by the organization through programs like Element of Play, which uses toy libraries and play to heal the long-term effects of trauma.
“As a mother of two young children, I know all the thought and worries we have — their health and their safety and their emotional wellbeing — so I can say that I only admire the vision of the organization who uses creative play though toy libraries to heal the pain and suffering of children,” said the star of the upcoming “Game of Thrones” prequel. “So tonight’s gala is just a reminder that when we all work together as one there is no problem we cannot solve.”
Joining Watts was Amy Poehler, who donned a pair of the charity’s signature blue eyeglasses, wittingly crafted using pipe cleaners. The glasses were first created by a 3-year-old girl who Aronson met in an orphanage in Ethiopia.
“She came over to me while I was jumping rope and tried to get my attention by pulling on my jacket,” Aronson recalled. “And I finally turned to look at her, she was wearing a pair of blue pipe cleaner glasses. All on her own without instruction she made the glasses. She was speaking to me. She was saying, ‘I’m connected. I’m attached. I’m with you in this. We’re together in this.’ That’s what the glasses meant. That’s what the glasses mean. Connection.”
Later in the night, Katie Couric was honored for her work in bringing attention to the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She was joined by Larousse Pierre, an orphan and survivor of the earthquake who first crossed paths with Couric during her time in the country. “I was really lucky to meet an American woman named Katie Couric,” Pierre said. “Today I feel no pain. I want to thank Katie Couric, Dr. Jane and WWO for saving my life.”
The evening wrapped with a performance by Tony Award-winner LaChanze.