Star-studded DesignCare Gala raises $700,000 for HollyRod Foundation


Magic Johnson wasn’t about to let anyone outbid him for a pair of singer-actress Beyoncé’s earrings, which were up for auction at the DesignCare Gala on Saturday. These were no ordinary earrings, for sure. The supernova wore them in her latest video, “Spirit,” from “The Lion King.”

No sooner had the auctioneer opened bidding than the NBA legend volunteered $10,000 before quickly doubling his own high bid to $20,000. The earrings were just one item in a live auction during the multifaceted gala, which also featured a silent auction, a Pamella Roland fashion show and performances by the soul-funk group Cameo and “America’s Got Talent” sensation Kodi Lee.

The event


The 21st DesignCare Gala raised funds for the HollyRod Foundation, which provides resources, job training and other services to individuals affected by Parkinson’s disease or autism as well as to their families. Holly Robinson Peete and NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, the couple behind the foundation, have been affected by both, as their son RJ has autism and Matt Robinson, father of the “21 Jump Street” actress, had Parkinson’s disease.

The scene

On an expansive lawn at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu, guests perused a silent auction packed with sports memorabilia, posed for souvenir photos and indulged in a diverse buffet that included Wagyu steak, truffled gnocchi, tuna rolls, chicken kabobs, plant-based sliders, salads, dips and choices of seafood or veggie paella.

Ryan Peete, sporting mauve braids, showed off the bulldog puppy, Smoky, available in the live auction. Also on offer were a chance to throw the first pitch in a New York Yankees game and a pregame strategy talk with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

The program

Onstage, the Peetes presided over a parade of awards for honorees Lee; actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”); Jimmy Choi (“American Ninja Warrior”), a marathon runner who has Parkinson’s; civil rights attorney and talk show host Areva Martin; autistic NCAA basketball player Kalin Bennett; and Mike Triplett on behalf of Cigna, the health services company.

The Peetes began by reminiscing about the first DesignCare, which consisted of 50 people, and as Robinson Peete pointed out, not enough food. “Now look at us — 21 years later,” said Rodney Peete, surveying the beautifully clad, celebrity-studded scene.

Shortly thereafter, the pair honored Lee, the blind and autistic musical talent whose YouTube video has already garnered 40 million views. Lee then performed two songs: “A Song For You” and “Unknown (To You).”

He then surprised everyone, including the Peetes, by belting out the Stevie Wonder tune “Superstition,” singing along to the music playing as he exited the stage.

“If that doesn’t tell you that all things are possible, I don’t know what does,” Rodney Peete said.

“I just picked that as playdown music,” added Robinson Peete. “I didn’t know we’d get a whole other song. He knew the lyrics that we didn’t even know.”

Longoria then followed, speaking of her oldest sister, Liza, who has a mental disability. “She too was on that ‘never’ list,” said the actress-producer. “They said she would never walk. She would never talk. She would never have an emotion toward anybody,” before adding that her sister is now 53, employed and happy. “She has three boyfriends,” Longoria said with a smile. “We get them confused and we get her in trouble. It’s a mess.”

The crowd

Those venturing to Malibu also included Gabrielle Union (“America’s Got Talent”), Eva LaRue (“The Young and the Restless”), Alex Meneses (“Jane the Virgin”), Nika King (“Euphoria”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Mom”), Candace Cameron Bure (“Fuller House”), Essence Atkins (“A Haunted House”), Skai Jackson (“Bunk’d”), Charlotte Ross (“Arrow”), Emma Fuhrmann (“Avengers: Endgame”), Vanessa Williams (“Ugly Betty”), former boxer Laila Ali and Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, with her husband, Richard Lawson.

The quotes

“Holly’s not only a friend of mine but I love the work that she does through her foundation,” Ali said in a private conversation during the reception. “Obviously with my father [Muhammad Ali] having Parkinson’s disease, this cause is near and dear to my heart.”

Said Robinson Peete in her HollyRod video shown during the gala, “I wouldn’t change my son RJ for the world but I would change the world for RJ.”

The numbers

The event raised about $700,000, counting the auctions, additional contributions, sponsorships and tickets for the 600 guests, which started at $500 and ranged to $100,000 for packages that included 30 guests.