“Children’s Law Center is the best child advocacy organization on the planet.”
Honorary Co-Chair Sen. Mary Landrieu’s words to hundreds of supporters captured the mood Tuesday night as the capacity crowd celebrated Children’s Law Center’s 20th Anniversary.
The evening raised more than $1.6 million to support the organization’s work on behalf of the District’s most vulnerable children.
Guests, including RJ’s “team” at front, listen to the program.
The sounds of Federal Samba filled the air as guests mingled and enjoyed the view from the Kennedy Center Terrace. The celebratory mood flowed into the night’s program, which was emcee’d by Makia Weaver and Ronovan “RJ” Johnson who were represented by Children’s Law Center as children in foster care.
The support of Weaver’s Children’s Law Center lawyer ensured that she could excel at school, which had become her refuge during turbulent times.
One memory that stood out for Weaver was this: When her group home turned off the lights as part of a mandatory early bed time, preventing her from finishing her homework, her lawyer cut through the bureaucracy to ensure the lights stayed on.
Inspired by her Children’s Law Center lawyer, Weaver, an American University Washington College of Law graduate, now clerks for DC Court of Appeals Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby.
Johnson, who graduated high school on the honor roll, provides computer support for the DC government.
“Allison and D.D. Davis … really invested in my wellbeing. They advocated and they taught me to advocate for myself and things that I wanted and believed in. And that’s what actually helped me get through school, graduate, get honor roll. It made me feel empowered.”
Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow with Makia Weaver and RJ Johnson and Honrorary Co-Chair The Honorable Mary Landrieu.
The cause for celebration was far from over. Benefit co-chair and Children’s Law Center board member Wendy Goldberg announced that the DC Council unanimously declared September, 20, 2016 as Children’s Law Center Day in the District.
“Not only because our 100 lawyers and staff work at the individual level to do what it takes to help each child every day, but also because we have contributed to city-wide policy reforms to benefit tens of thousands more children.”
And while the evening was a chance to celebrate and honor achievements and supporters – Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow offered a serious reminder.
“When a problem feels too big to solve, many caring and good-hearted people look away. And the work of Children’s Law Center boils down to one thing: making sure that our city—the Mayor, Council, judges, teachers, lawyers, neighbors and each and every one of us – resists the temptation to look away.”
Looking to the evening’s emcees, Sandalow added an optimistic note, “Please keep your eyes open. If you do, you will get to know how full of promise DC’s youth are, young people like Makia and RJ.”
The evening was also a chance to recognize the many individuals, law firms and corporations who have kept their eyes open and helped Children’s Law Center assist almost 30,000 children and families during its 20-year history. Singled out for recognition as this year’s recipient of the 2016 Children’s Pro Bono Champion Award was Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
For 20 years, Skadden has been one of Children’s Law Center’s most important partners. In addition to funding several Skadden fellows at Children’s Law Center, including the attorney who represented Weaver, the firm piloted a pro bono housing conditions program for Children’s Law Center, which now includes several other firms. Skadden also focuses its pro bono efforts on children and families in DC, choosing Children’s Law Center as one of the three legal services to do this work.
Skadden partner, Kady Ashley, accepted the award on the firm’s behalf.
Skadden partner Kady Ashley, pictured with Makia Weaver, holds the 2016 Children’s Pro Bono Champion Award.
“We chose Children’s Law Center as one of our three original partner organizations because we were looking for highly effective organizations that make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and families in DC, and that is precisely what CLC is,” said Ashley.
Skadden partner and Benefit Co-Chair Fred Goldberg was instrumental in launching the pro bono impact project. ”He described Children’s Law Center as “the gold standard” when it comes to representing children and supporting their pro bono efforts.
Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow with Benefit Co-Chairs Wendy and Fred Golderg. Wendy is also a member of the Board of Directors.
As the evening approached its close, Landrieu took the stage. In a passionate and sometimes tearful speech, the former senator called on attendees to address the urgent needs of vulnerable DC children, calling Children’s Law Center a model that should be replicated around the country.
Leading the way with her own gift and one from Honorary Co-Chair Eric Holder, Landrieu urged attendees to give generously—raising more than $50,000 that evening and bringing the total raised to over $1.6 million.
Children’s Law Center is grateful to the partners, donors and sponsors who made this year’s Helping Children Soar Benefit a success. And a special thanks to our Champion Sponsors, Covington, Diana and Stephen Goldberg, Latham & Watkins and, of course, Skadden – a Champion sponsor and 2016 Children’s Pro Bono Champion. Click here for a full list of sponsors.
A matching gift challenge of $100,000 offered by Benefit Co-Chairs Wendy and Fred Goldberg, Children’s Law Center Board Chair Ted Segal and wife Joyce Wasserstein and Board Member Katie Snowdon and husband Dick helped encourage increased donations in honor of the 20th Anniversary. In addition, Skadden partner John V. Bentivoglio pledged a $50,000 match for gifts made that night, ensuring, a $1.6 million record breaking evening.
“With your help we remain committed to reaching even more children over the next 20 years so thousands more children can grow up to live safer, happier lives,” Sandalow said as she closed out the night.
As we celebrate 20 years of fighting for DC’s children, thanks to our generous supporters, Children’s Law Center looks ahead to the work left to be done.