“Day of Giving” Community Outreach Program Has Kids Smiling at Universal and Other Giving Events

By Frank Barron

Larry Kurzweil at Universal’s Day of Giving.

Why wait for Thanksgiving to capture the spirit of giving? Last week hundreds of employee volunteers from Universal deployed to five non-profit organizations throughout Los Angeles as Universal Studios Hollywood marked its seventh annual “Day of Giving” community outreach program.

This year’s “Day of Giving” added “Operation School Bell” to the charitable efforts, creating smiles on the faces of more than 150 homeless children. The kids took a trip to the Universal tour center, where they received new school wear, shoes, and backpacks. Facepainting and lunch were also on the day-long activities, made possible by the big hearts of the Universal employees and their dedication to helping others.

“There’s no better way to celebrate our company’s core value of ‘doing the right thing’ than by gathering our employees and demonstrating our commitment to improving the community. The level of compassion our employees display through their participation in these community-based projects is highly commendable. I’m proud of each and every one of them,” Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood, said with enormous pride, wearing his “Giving is Universal” t-shirt.

In addition to Operation School Bell, the other organizations that were assisted by the volunteers were the AIDS Project L.A. Food Pantry; MEND-Meet Each Need with Dignity; serving lunches at Union Station Homeless Services; and beautifying the grounds at the Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home. Kudos to the USH, folks.

On a different day, author-actress-activist Alana Stewart presided over an airborne fund-raiser at the iFly attraction at Universal CityWalk. It was for the iFly Hollywood Breast Cancer Awareness Day, and city councilman Tom LaBonge and The Pink’s Hot Dog family helped launch the cause with a pink ribbon cutting. They were surrounded by pink décor in the wind tunnel at iFly, which donated a portion of proceeds from every flight logged in during October. We were told that Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr. has been among the daredevil stars who have enjoyed the iFly Hollywood experience.

From l, Tom and Madeleine Sherak, Fulfillment Fund founder Gary Gitnick, and honoree Disney’s Rich Ross.

It was a celebration for everyone who loves Lucy. The Hollywood Museum at the old Max Factor building across from the Hollywood and Highland complex had an “I Love Lucy Day” last weekend. It honored the 60th anniversary of the I Love Lucy classic sitcom, and featured a panel with original cast, crew, and friends of Lucille Ball, the beloved redhead and entertainment icon.

There’s a great free event this Friday — a sneak preview screening of a new Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Have A Little Faith, starring Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Whitford, Anika Noni Rose, and Martin Landau. The story is by author Mitch Albom, known for his bestsellers Tuesdays with Morrie and Five People You Meet in Heaven. The free screening will be held on Friday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. at the Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts in the Saban Theatre located at 8440 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. A panel discussion will follow with special guests led by Rabbi David Baron. If you can’t make it, Have A Little Faith will air Nov. 27 on ABC.

The brightest stars in the Disney/ABC entertainment family reported that it was a great celebration for Rich Ross, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, who was honored at the Fulfillment Fund’s 2011 Stars Gala. Everyone from Selena Gomez to Eva Longoria showed up. But the favorite pair of the night was Jason Segel and Kermit the Frog who shared the hosting duties.

The star-studded evening featured a live performance by the theatrical cast of Disney’s classic The Lion King. More than 900 guests attended the event, co-chaired by mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, CAA managing partner Kevin Huvane, DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider, and Disney Media Network co-chair and Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney.

The Founders’ Humanitarian Award was presented to Madeleine and Tom Sherak. And one of the classiest men in Hollywood, Sidney Poitier was also on hand. Comic Sinbad was a funny auctioneer, and he enlisted Eva Longoria to help him raise some money for the kids. The cause they were supporting, The Fulfillment Fund, is a nonprofit dedicated to helping promising yet under-resourced Los Angeles students graduate from high school and complete college.

“At the Fulfillment Fund, we help Los Angeles students overcome obstacles to pursuing the dream of a life-changing college education,” said Andrea Cockrum, CEO of the Fulfillment Fund.