The Alfred Mann Foundation, established in 1985 with a mission to develop and commercialize innovative solutions for significant unmet medical conditions, set a lofty goal for its inaugural fundraising event, An Evening of Innovation and Inspiration. The nonprofit sought to raise $1 million from the 330 guests attending a gala celebration hosted at the Beverly Hills estate of Claude and Alfred Mann.
Jim Hooker of Stratelyst Creative was hired to produce and direct the celebrity-heavy event, which featured a performance by legendary singer, songwriter, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte. The inaugural gala honored the president of the University of Southern California Steven B. Sample with the foundation’s Innovation and Inspiration Award for his outstanding leadership in shaping higher education in the region.
The star-studded evening was conceived and produced with only five months of lead time. From the estate’s valet parking, guests were shuttled to a red carpet entry that led into a silent auction reception. At the appropriate moment, elegant lighting then guided guests to the tennis court below where they enjoyed dinner prepared by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
Throughout the evening, attendees were educated and inspired by the foundation’s efforts through multimedia and the words of grateful patients. Before the night was over, $1.4 million had been raised for research at the foundation.
Hooker continued to produce and direct the Alfred Mann Foundation Gala for the subsequent two years, with the event successfully exceeding its $1 million goal both times. The events’ performers included Grammy-Award-winning jazz legend Al Jarreau and multi-Grammy-Award-winning pop/R&B artists The Pointer Sisters. Masters of Ceremonies Ryan Seacrest, Mario Lopez, and Adrianna Costa presented AMF Innovation and Inspiration Awards to television and radio host Larry King and the mayor of Los Angeles and his wife, The Honorable Richard and Nancy Daly Riordan. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck returned each year to prepare exquisite meals for gatherings that included Paula Abdul, Danny DeVito, Mary Hart, Jayne Meadows, Rhea Pearlman, and Al Santos, among others.
These three initial Alfred Mann Foundation Gala events – which all came in under budget – set the standard for the organization’s lucrative annual fundraiser. The inspiring events educated guests on the mission and actions of the organization, and the resulting monies raised supported the research efforts of the Alfred Mann Foundation for many years.
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