Children's Institute's 5th Annual Gala Raises More Than $1MM, Honors Gelila Assefa Puck, Derrick Rossi, PhD, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith and Paul Kanin

May 12, 2023 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
LOS ANGELES (May 12, 2023) Children's Institute (CII), one of the largest agencies of its kind partnering with communities to provide integrated, trauma-informed programs and services, hosted their 5th Annual Cape & Gown Gala, emceed by Rob Reiner in Santa Monica, California, on Tuesday, May 9. The event raised more than $1MM to support CII's transformative programs that empower families in achieving educational success and emotional well-being, which build pathways to economic mobility and lifelong health.

The Cape & Gown Gala recognizes individuals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families; past honorees include world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, Chairperson of Warner Bros. Television, Channing Dungey, Co-creator of the Moderna vaccine Kizzmekia Corbett, PhD, and the late Suzanne Rheinstein, celebrated interior designer and philanthropist.

"We are deeply grateful to all of you who attended and contributed to our 5th Annual Cape & Gown Gala last night." said Martine Singer, CII's President and CEO, "With the shared goal of creating a more just and equitable Los Angeles, we are thrilled to have raised direct support for programs that create community resilience, thriving families, and healthy children."

This year's honorees include: Paul Kanin; Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith; Derrick Rossi, PhD; and Gelila Assefa Puck.

  • Paul Kanin, introduced by his three children Maralee, Matt and Max Kanin, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of service to his Los Angeles community as well as many years serving as a trustee and Chair of Children's Institute's Board of Trustees.
  • "I believe that being a part of CII has provided me the greatest satisfaction of all of my volunteer work," said Kanin, "Attending a foster youth graduation or serving at the Thanksgiving luncheons, you see dozens of people who have committed their lives to taking care of children. And once you've seen it, you'll want to be a part of it."
  • Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, introduced by Watts Gang Task Force President Donny Joubert and TDE executive Brandon Tiffith, received the Community Champion award for his tireless efforts in his beloved Watts Community.
  • "Having grown up in Watts, I've always wanted to be a leader who could show kids that there is more to life than what we're born into," Tiffith said. "My own work in the community and the work that Children's Institute does is aligned because it's meant to break generational cycles of poverty and trauma. Healing is possible and it comes in many forms, from a concert to a community center."
  • Derrick Rossi, PhD, introduced by Rob Reiner, received the Children's Champion Award for his innovative work in stem cell biology and mRNA technology as co-founder of Moderna, saving millions of lives world-wide.
  • "Every child should have the opportunity to chase their curiosities," said Dr. Rossi, "From stem cell biology to entertainment, I've been fortunate enough to realize my dreams through not only innate ability and hard work, but also opportunities that are, unfortunately, not equitably afforded to all communities. I'm proud to work with Children's Institute to help get resources to kids who could have the next big idea that will change the world."
  • Gelila Assefa Puck, introduced by Wolfgang Puck, received the Children's Champion Award for her international efforts to provide hope and opportunity to children and families, including through her organization Dream for Future Africa Foundation and as a member of Children's Institute's Board of Trustees.
  • "I immigrated to the United States to escape oppression during the Red Terror in Ethiopia, and I have spent many years working on behalf of women and children in Africa. Now that Los Angeles is my home, I see the impact that decades of underinvestment and racist policies have on communities here," said Puck, "Getting involved with Children's Institute has allowed me to make a positive impact as their work embraces partnership and increases our Los Angeles community's capacity for healing and resilience."</li>

    Emceed by actor, director and activist Rob Reiner, the evening featured inspiring stories from CII staff, community members and supporters. Children's Institute speaker, Adianna Paul, joined CII's program for transition-aged foster youth when she was 17 and received the support and mentorship she needed to achieve her educational goals. Guests watched Adianna's incredible journey in a special video presentation. A Live Auction and Fund-a-Future campaign hosted by Emmy winning host Liam Mayclem provided guests the opportunity to take home some arts, travel and culinary experiences donated in support of CII's programs and services. The evening ended with an awe-inspiring performance of Mariah Carey's 1993 hit, "Hero" by the Los Angeles Inner City Mass Choir.

    Children's Institute (CII) has served Los Angeles communities since 1906. Every year, CII supports 30,000 children and families across Los Angeles in achieving emotional well-being and educational success, which build pathways to economic mobility and lifelong health. We work in communities impacted by decades of underinvestment and racist policies- from Echo Park to Watts to Long Beach. CII offers education, counseling services, parenting support, convening spaces and enrichment programs in the community and at our early education centers, K-12 schools, and neighborhood hubs.

    Learn more at
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