We Are Family Foundation (WAFF), a not-profit organization founded by legendary songwriter and producer Nile Rodgers, hosted its annual Celebration Gala, honoring Caryl M. Stern, Bill McDermott and Chaka Khan, and featured a special concert with Nile Rodgers & Chic with Chaka Khan, on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
The event was attended by more than 500 guests and the money raised furthers WAFF’s global youth initiatives, Three Dot Dash and TEDxTeen. These initiatives support, mentor and provide platforms for extraordinary global teens to amplify their social entrepreneurial work that positively impacts communities in more than 60 countries.
The night kicked off with a star-studded red carpet and cocktail hour with guests including Nile Rodgers (Founder & Chairman, We Are Family Foundation; Producer, Musician and Songwriter), Nancy Hunt (President, We Are Family Foundation), Chaka Khan (Humanitarian Award recipient; Musical Guest, Singer-Songwriter), Bill McDermott (Visionary Award recipient; President & CEO of SAP), Caryl M. Stern (Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award recipient; President & CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF), Grandmaster Melle Mel (Hip-Hop Artist; Special Musical Guest), Rosanna Scotto (Host; Anchor, Fox Good Day New York), Greg Kelly (Host; Anchor, Fox Good Day New York), Jess Teutonico (Executive Director, We Are Family Foundation), Nicholas Lowinger (Founder, Gotta Have Sole), Ryan Orbuch (Founder, Finish App), Susan Rockefeller (Board of Directors, We Are Family Foundation; Documentary Filmmaker), Nicole and Matthew Mellon (Board of Governors, We Are Family Foundation), Daniel and Ellen Crown (Board of Directors, We Are family Foundation), Tom Silverman (Director Emeritus, We Are Family Foundation; Founder & CEO of Tommy Boy Entertainment), Susan Mufson (Board of Governors, We Are Family Foundation; Activist & Philanthropist), Benjamin Quinto (Board of Governors, We Are Family Foundation; GM Natural-Immunogenics Corp; Founder, Global Youth Action Network), Maria Bartiromo (Fox News Anchor), Donna D’Cruz (Founder of Rasa Living, Meditation Guru & DJ/Performer), Phil Donahue (Media Personality, Host of the Phil Donahue Show), Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner), Inez + Vinoodh (Fashion Photographers), Anthony Mason (Senior Correspondent for Business and Economics for CBS), Q-Tip (Rapper and Music Producer), RZA (Rapper and Music Producer), Denise Rich (Philanthropist), David and Susan Rockefeller (Philanthropist and Past Honorees), Marlo Thomas (Actress & Philanthropist).
After an introduction by Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly, Nile Rodgers welcomed everyone to the event saying he was “humbled and blown away,” by everyone in attendance. He then went on to share that although each year’s honorees are amazing, this year he was particularly moved to honor Chaka Khan, someone he has looked up to for decades. Following his remarks, he welcomed President of WAFF and his partner Nancy Hunt. Speaking about the global teens WAFF works with in more than 60 countries, she said, “They don’t believe in no, only in why not”. She then introduced WAFF’s new Executive Director, Jess Teutonico, sharing her story of starting out with WAFF as a Three Dot Dash Mentor, followed by Curator for TEDxTeen to her current position as Executive Director. Jess shared WAFF’s aim to “empower game changing youth to positively challenge the status quo.” She introduced 17 year-old Nicholas Lowinger, founder of Gotta Have Sole and a CNN Hero who founded his organization after visiting homeless shelters as a young boy. He realized that by not having shoes that fit, children in shelters miss out on a lot of opportunities and suffer from low self-esteem. He started Gotta Have Sole at age 12 and became a WAFF Global Teen Leader (GTL) through its Three Dot Dash program in 2013. Since becoming a GTL, his organization has impacted more than 35,000 kids across the country.
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Peacemaker Award honoree Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO of The U.S. Fund for UNICEF, was introduced by her two sons James and Lee LaRosa. After a video introduction featuring her travels to aide children in refugee camps and her dedication to helping children across the world, Dr. Jeni Stepanek, mother of the late Mattie J.T. Stepanek whom the award is named after, started her introduction with a recording of a poem written and recited by Mattie. She shared that Stern and Mattie held similar beliefs in that all children should have the opportunity to achieve all dreams and they both embrace opportunities for peace. Stern, shared that it was her mother who instilled within her the belief that one person can make a difference. She dedicated her award to the four UNICEF aide workers who lost their lives in a bombing in Somalia earlier in the week, saying that they had dedicated their lives to ensuring children could have a better future.
Maria Bartiromo introduced the Visionary Award honoree, SAP President and CEO Bill McDermott. Following a video presentation which included SAP employees and guest appearances from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Former Golf Player Gary Player and Bono, he spoke to the crowd and said, “You can get anything you want in this life if you help other people get what they want.”
Following McDermott’s speech Toby Usnik of Christie’s led an exciting live auction raising more than $250,000.
Following the auction, Nile Rodgers presented Chaka Khan with the Humanitarian Award. After accepting the award, she joined Nile Rodgers and CHIC for three songs, “Feel For You”, “I’m Every Woman” and “Ain’t Nobody” with a special appearance by Grandmaster Melle Mel. Nile Rodgers and CHIC played their hits at the end of the night, including their new single “I’ll Be There, and ended with the audience joining the band on stage as they performed “We Are Family” and their signature song, “Le Freak”.
About We Are Family Foundation We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to the vision of a global family by creating and supporting programs that promote cultural diversity while nurturing the vision, talents, and ideas of young people who are positively changing the world. Through global initiatives like Three Dot Dash and TEDxTeen, WAFF has mentored and empowered extraordinary teens from more than 60 countries on six continents by giving them platforms to share their messages, tell their stories, inspire others, amplify their work and foster respect and understanding across cultures. For more information visit wearefamilyfoundation.org