This was a night to remember
On Thursday, April 14, the nonprofit organization, Room to Grow held their annual charity benefit. This organization specializes in enriching the lives of babies in their first three years of life that are born into poverty. Room to Grow works with the families of these children in providing education, support, community resources, and essential baby needs. Studies have shown that major development in children happens in the first three years of life and Room to Grow’s mission is to help babies born into conditions of poverty thrive and become successful adults. At this benefit, celebrity guests included Emma Hemming Willis, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Savannah Guthriem Ken Burns, Julie Burns, Kristen Taekman, and many more.
The event featured a silent and live auction and some of the items were fought over. There was a bidding war for the Tuack Specialty Tours where the winner could choose between four incredible trips for a party of 4. Some of the potential trips for this item included a safari in Kenya/Tanzania and a week trip to Italy. Another amazing item up for auction was a Night out with Emma & Bruce Willis where the winner would go with the couple to go see Sting and Peter Gabriel in concert at their Madison Square Garden stop. With such great items up for auction, Room to Grow managed to exceed their goal for the night. What was also special was how Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis reunited on the red carpet considering how they both starred together on the classic film Pulp Fiction. Just by looking at their interaction on the carpet, it seemed as though no time has passed between them and that they both are great friends. With such a lively and fun night set up for this amazing organization, it is hard not to believe that people wouldn’t be willing to donate to such a great cause.
Check out our interviews with some of the celebrity guests on the red carpet below:
Ken and Julie Burns:
Q: The purpose of this nonprofit is so great and so noble. Can you talk about why this cause is so important right now and the significance of this organization?
Julie: In a word, it is about prevention where getting into the lives of these families from the very beginning, when there is all this opportunity for growth and all the possibilities in the world. There is tons of brain science to tell us that children at this precious age have the greatest opportunity for enrichment and education learning and attachment and it’s the ability to take care of them and their parents as well and help provide their parents with all the tools that they need to enable their children to have the strong start in life is really what we are all about.
Ken: It’s great. I have just come along for the ride. It’s a really impressive thing. Julie developed it and nobody else does anything like it. It takes children born into poverty and provide them with all the material—needs that they have in terms of books and clothes and all the things that they need and then also the counseling that will help their parents be better parents.
Q: And being a filmmaker and a storyteller with your documentaries, have you had any sort of influence in helping promote this organization?
Ken: I have offered advice over the years but the biggest thing is that I am a parent of four daughters and I know even in people who are lucky enough to have the resources to raise our children, give them the best things, how difficult it is to raise children. And if you imagine what it is like for a child to be raised in poverty—they say that a child raised in poverty, by the time they are three years old, has hears 30,000,000 fewer words than someone born not into that. And that means that intervention as well as prevention is central to this success for this organization.
Q: And this being the annual benefit for this organization, what do you hope to see accomplished after tonight?
Ken: Just raising a ton of money.
Q: Being a mother of such a young child, can you talk about some of the emotional attachment you have to this cause?
A: I think because I am a mom to a child who is almost two years old I have such an appreciation that Room to Grow is doing. Until you live it, you can’t fully grasp how important these years are. From birth to three years old is where all the action is, where everything happens, and I feel so grateful to have all these moments with her and spending all this time with her and having those advantages. And when you think about moms who are impoverished, who are just trying to get that rent paid, who are struggling with basic needs, they need our support, they need our help, and they deserve to be as wonderful moms as they want to be. And I love this organization because they have zeroed in like a laser on this time for little ones and moms and just surround them with support and so I think that is incredible and I am so happy to be here and to be a part of it.
Q: Can you talk about your involvement in this organization?
A: Well, I started being involved in this organization 18 years ago when, at the time Julie Brown who is now Julie Burns, she and I were neighbors and I was having my first child. And the concerns of raising children with next to no resources became a very clear and obvious imperative to me and the development of a child from zero to three has been proven in the last 18 years to be extremely crucial in the future trajectory of a child’s life. So, we didn’t even have all that data then when the organization started but even as you see, President Obama has gone on to really reinforce early childhood…so 18 years ago this was not a hot topic, it was not thought to be a time in a child’s life that would determine their future. And research and time has shown that they are the crucial years as far as setting a child up for the potential of success and being able to grow into functional and successful adults. This organization has remained very dear to me and its growth in children that are helped—and their families because a lot of the resources are involved in supporting the parents, or mothers or fathers, largely others, but sometimes two parents in also finding their own way in creating a stable household and a safe household with awareness and early literacy intervention, health intervention and assessment of both mother and child which is probably going to be the next big wave of understanding the children which is understanding their primary caretaker. So, this organization covers all of that and every single child that we give a better life to is another member of our community that will be able to give back and that’s what gives us a better world.
Emma Hemming Willis:
Q: What are some milestones that you want to see achieved from and through this organization?
A: Well, tonight we are looking to raise $500,000. I am really hoping we can achieve that. We have some great auction items and this organization is such a great organization because it has so many layers to it. It’s not just about toys and clothes but the organization really stays with the families. So when the mother is pregnant in her third trimester, they stay with them until they are three. I love that there is just more that goes into it than just distributing clothes. It’s been around for 19 years so there’s no reason why it can’t continue and so a night like this is important because it is important to raise money for these families.
Q: A lot of this money goes towards benefiting the children as far as education goes. Will you educate your children about this cause and do you try to teach them about the privilege of their upbringing?
A: Yeah, they’re two and four so do they really understand the concept yet? No, they don’t. But, over spring break we put together a Popsicle stand for them and all the proceeds raised went to Room to Grow. We raised $500 selling popsicles so we were very impressed with that. We did it in Turks and Caicos and so we were out there and we were thrilled with that. And so I just wanted to implement that in my kids’ lives and so they understand the significance of giving and giving back and I feel like if you start that at an early age then it gets imprinted in you so that’s what I am hoping for.
The highlight of my night is when I asked Bruce for a photo. He looked at me, nodded, and said “I’ll do you one better.” He grabbed my hand and invited me to walk the carpet with him which is how I got this amazing picture.