Early in December, Reese made her regular appearance at the annual Children’s Defense Fund’s ‘Beat the Odds’ Awards event in Beverley Hills. Reese serves on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund, which is a child advocacy organisation. At the event, she presented an award to a local high school student who ‘beat the odds’ to achieve academic excellence. Reese looked gorgeous in a blue and black Michael Kors dress with Casadei ‘Blade’ heels. And she’s sporting a new hair-do – Reese has cut her hair into a shoulder-length bob, and I think she looks amazing! The whole look here is very chic and pretty. Reese was snapped with Jennifer Garner and Conan O’Brien at the event.
Check out over 80 HQ photos from the celebration in the Gallery, and read on further down this post for a few articles about the awards.
Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner and More Celebrate at the 23rd Annual Beat the Odds Awards
Some of Hollywood’s finest gathered last night to celebrate five deserving students at the Children’s Defense Fund-Calfiornia 23rd Annual Beat the Odds Awards. The Children’s Defense Fund-California is a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF-CA helps lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect, and ensure their access to healthcare and quality education.
Five Los Angeles-area high school “stars” were honored by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, and Matt Damon for beating the odds, and overcoming tremendous personal obstacles in order to achieve academic excellence. Other attendees included Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Josiah Bell, Conan O’Brien, J.J. Abrams, and Katie Lowes. Witherspoon, who serves on the CDF-CA’s National Board, spoke highly of the work the charity performs. “What I really love about this organization is that it is truly all about the kids,” the actress stated. “I am so proud to be a part of the organization.” This sentiment was echoed throughout the evening, in more ways than one. Each winning student was honored individually, and gift bags were forgone in favor of creating five gigantic gift bags for the honorees. “These kids are going to be really excited when they open them later this evening!” Witherspoon said.
As the emotional and inspiring evening came to a close, CDF President Marian Wright Edelman recognized the many accomplishments of the organization, but asserted that there is still much further to go. “Building on the leadership of young people and those that are here tonight, we can force our nation to make new choices and to really make large strides forward. We must not move backwards. We’ve got to turn this around. We’ve got to change it and we will change it,” Wright Edelman concluded.
- In Style
Jennifer Garner, Conan O’Brien Honor Amazing Kids at Beat the Odds Awards
During awards season, actors, screenwriters, directors and others working in film are feted at near-constant festivals and awards shows. On Dec. 5, however, it was all about the kids.
The Children’s Defense Fund-California hosted their 23rd Beat the Odds Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel, awarding $10,000 college scholarships to five high school students who have overcome adversity in their personal lives to become successful in school and extra-curriculars. Jennifer Garner, Conan O’Brien, Reese Witherspoon, J.J. Abrams and more joined in to honor the scholars.
“What I really love about this organization and this particular event is that it is truly all about the kids,” Witherspoon said before introducing one of the honorees. “For example, many of you will notice if you look at the back of your chair, there is no gift bag hanging there, nor will you find one waiting for you at the valet.”
Witherspoon smiled as she then described that, instead, they’ve focused their efforts on creating expansive gift bags for the five scholarship winners – a decision that, judging by their applause, the audience approved of. (“We spent our time approaching colleagues, sponsors and friends to create five gigantic gift baskets for our honorees.”)
The children’s stories were told via short movies by a variety of directors, showing heartbreaking circumstances, including poverty, abusive parents and addiction. Kevin Huvane and Abrams took the stage to solicit donations, and acknowledged how easy it is to forget about those suffering.
“Kevin and I are here as co-chairs of the event, but even more as fathers who want a bright future for all children,” Abrams said.
“Living here in L.A., it’s really too easy to get comfortable,” Huvane continued. “It’s too easy to assume that because we’re able to invest in the future of our children through quality education, good doctors, safe spaces and healthy food, that those inhibited by poverty are capable of doing so, too.”
Garner spoke about scholar Marilyn Bravo, whose alcoholic and drug-addicted father forced her family to move from place to place, with her mother, who spoke little English, barely being able to pay for food and rent.
“So many young people give up when they see that the deck of life is stacked against them,” said Garner. “But Marilyn Bravo is not one of them, for she is committed to living up to her incredible potential.”
It later revealed that Bravo holds a 4.11 GPA and hopes to earn a degree in bio-engineering.
O’Brien introduced Jerry Gonzalez, whose father left the family, while his mother’s boyfriend turned abusive until he was eventually arrested and deported. Burdened by anger and anxiety, Gonzalez turned to alcohol and hard drugs before he was old enough to drive.
“Tragically, Jerry’s story is far too common,” O’Brien said. “But what’s uncommon, and it’s really astounding, is how he triumphed over his past and beat the odds to accomplish great things.”
The courts intervened and placed Gonzalez in a rehabilitation program, where he stopped using drugs and turned his life around. He now holds a 3.91 GPA and serves as a mentor at the same rehabilitation center he attended.
The night also included an impassioned speech from Children’s Fund President Marian Wright Edelman. Edelman, the first African American woman to be admitted to the Mississippi bar, was introduced by CDF board member Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
“For those of us who have the privilege of serving on her board, our favorite thing about Marian is that for over 40 years, she has made the nation’s leaders very, very uncomfortable,” Smollett-Bell said, drawing laughs. “She has been relentless in reminding our elected officials that there is no excuse for a hungry child in this country.”
Edelman brought that point home, and earned a standing ovation.
“Look at the waste, look at the gifts that we’re throwing away,” Edelman said as she spoke about poor children. “We’ve got to turn this around. As I constantly say, we have no money problem. We the largest economy in the world, and how is it that we can let 16 million go poor? We’ve got to change it.”
Jeff Garlin and Columbus Short also presented awards. The other students who were honored were Stephanie Fabian, Alezaihvia Melendez and Alexis Metcalfe.