Conan O'Brien co-chairs Children's Defense Fund gala for 5 teens

Conan O'Brien co-chairs Children's Defense Fund gala for 5 teens
NBA player Matt Barnes, left, and honoree Chase Moore take a selfie onstage at Children's Defense Fund - California's H24th Annual Beat the Odds Awards. (Jesse Grant / Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund)

The event: Most Los Angeles awards dinners pay tribute to Hollywood stars, VIP business leaders or big-time philanthropists. But at the Children’s Defense Fund-California’s “Beat the Odds” dinner, the VIPs and stars turned out to celebrate five outstanding high school students.

The scene: From the podium, co-chair Conan O’Brien said he’d been asked to thank supporters for coming to Culver City for Thursday’s affair at the BookBindery. “No one says ‘Thanks for coming to Beverly Hills,’” O’Brien noted, before pointing out that the venue – once used by the University of California system to bind books – made perfect sense for this fundraiser.

“Given our connection to education, and the fact that our honorees will be pursuing college degrees,” he continued, “I think it’s very appropriate to spend some time in a place that has played a supporting role in educating so many Angelenos over the years,” calling the association “very cool.”

The crowd: Brad Paisley, Timothy Olyphant, Darby Stanchfied, Elisabeth Shue, Greg Grunberg, Ahna O’Reilly, Aja Naomi King, Kelly McCreary, Mary McCormack, Tim Guinee, Kevin Nealon and Susan Yeagley could all be spotted at the long candle-lit tables. More co-chairs were Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams, Carol and Frank Biondi, Katie Sharer and Mark Mullen, Liza O’Brien, Laphonza Butler, Ruth-Ann Huvane and Kevin Huvane.

The honorees: Chase Moore, Elizabeth Lopez, Sequoia Canada, Timothy Walker and Zachary Byrge were the honorees, whose inspiring stories can be found on the organization's website.

The program: Marian Wright Edelman, president of the national organization, addressed the gathering before Los Angeles Clipper Matt Barnes, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and actors Chris Messina, John Boyega and actress Jordana Brewster presented awards to students Chase Moore, Sequoia Canada, Timothy Walker, Zachary Byrge and Elizabeth Lopez. Following each video, which showed how these young achievers overcame adversity to accomplish personal and academic victories, the entire audience rose to give them standing ovations.

Quote of note: J.J. Abrams, onstage with Kevin Huvane, spoke of the need for funds, owing to the poverty faced by so many children in our country. “All of us in this room are blessed,” he said. “We know where our children are tonight. We know they’re safe. We know they have food. We know they have shelter and we know they have love… Tonight we honor five truly amazing scholars from our city who are beating the odds,” he continued, before reminding, “There are thousands more just like them.”

The numbers: More than 400 guests attended the event, which priced tickets from $500 each to $100,000 for tables of 20. Aside from support services, honorees each received $10,000 college scholarships. Total funds raised for CDF-CA, still to be tabulated, support programs that protect children, educate them and lift them out of poverty.

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