Search Modern Luxury

The Spirit of Giving

L.A.’s big heart beats strong year after year. With an unstoppable drive to give back to a city that has fostered so many blessings and successes, our leading philanthropists and charities partner up to create an unmatched environment for doing good—and doing so often.

Philanthropist Kelly Meyer at her home in Malibu

Jorge Valencia, photographed at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, the site of this year’s Voices on Point gala

Julie Greenbaum and Yael Cohen Braun are all business when it comes to their nonprofit, FCancer.

As a trustee of the National Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the Women’s Cancer Research Fund and chair of numerous philanthropic events around town, Kelly Meyer is no stranger to giving back. In 2010, Meyer decided to add to her impressive list of charitable endeavors by co-founding Teaching Gardens with Chi Kim, the principal of her children’s Malibu elementary school. “I had a garden with my kids, and I saw the impact that it had [on them],” explains Meyer, who’s a mother of two children with her husband, NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer, and the stepmother of his two daughters, Jennifer and Sarah Meyer. “I started the nonprofit because it was originally a better way to talk about the environment, and then I realized it was directly related to the statistics on diabetes, obesity and the health
of our youth.” After planting gardens at underprivileged schools in California and educating the students on nutrition, The American Heart Association saw Meyer’s positive impact on health and opted to adopt her organization. “The AHA figured out how to scale [it], and now we are in 365 schools across the country,” she says. “In philanthropy, sustainability is key. You want the charity to exist without you. You want other people to take your idea and make it better.” The altruist continues: “Watching videos of kids gardening in schools across the United States and seeing my dream happening without me [present], is simply the greatest gift.” Teaching Gardens, 816 S. Figueroa St., L.A., 213.291.7029

On the Scene
While currently rooted in 365 schools across 35 states, Teaching Gardens hopes to impact 1,000 schools by 2018. This year, the Fruits and Vegetables Breakthrough Initiative is the charity’s main focus. The goal: “Eat more fruits and veggies—simple, elegant, done!” says Meyer.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has partnered with esteemed French crystal manufacturer Lalique and online auction
house Paddle8 on Elton John Music Is Love for Lalique, a collection of gorgeous limited-edition crystal sculptures. Comprised of seven pieces—four of which will be available for bidding online in the weeks leading up to the foundation’s annual Academy Awards viewing party Feb. 28, where they will be auctioned off by Paddle8—the exclusive offerings range from one-of-a-kind items like the showstopping Cire Perdue Angel, and a red-crystal and platinum-enamel heart to similar versions that will be available in limited quantities at select retailers and Lalique boutiques ($1,200 to $1,800), including Beverly Hills. All proceeds from the auction and 10 percent of in-store sales will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “The ultimate goal of this project is to raise money to support urgently needed projects that address the continuing challenges of the AIDS epidemic across the globe,” says John, who has been a longtime Lalique fan and collector of the brand. 238 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, 310.271.7892

For Los Angeles native Justin Mikita, there is a charitable angle to nearly every aspect of his life. “My passion for cause-related work began in 2008 when Proposition 8 passed in California,” he says. “I immediately knew I had to work on civil rights.” After graduating law school in 2010, Mikita went on to work for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, ultimately serving as the director of development until 2013. He then launched Tie the Knot—a fashionable line of bow ties benefiting LGBTQ equality—with his husband, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and co-founded Hawkins Mikita, a consulting company that bridges the gap between the entertainment industry and philanthropic causes. Now, Mikita is moving into the world of e-commerce with Thread Experiment, a stylish bedding brand targeting the male customer, with an innovative one-for-one component: For every full set of bedding purchased, one set of linens is donated to those in need, from homeless shelters to emergency assistance. “Everything I do continues to have philanthropy peppered throughout,” Mikita explains. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

’Tis the season of giving, and there’s no better or more fabulous way to do so than at L.A.’s most impressive soirees. On Nov. 5, City of Hope’s 2015 Spirit of Life Gala (tickets $1,000, tables from $25,000) will benefit the well-known biomedical center, which is focused on revolutionizing treatment for life-threatening diseases. Typically an A-list affair (past guests have included Katy Perry and Adam Levine), last year’s fete raised $5 million. Later into November, the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s Duet Gala (tickets from $1,500, tables from $25,000) is taking place Nov. 10 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Bram Goldsmith will be honored for his contributions to the Wallis Annenberg Center and AFIPO. On Nov. 14, the Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai Supper Club 2015 (tickets $500) will be held at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel) to raise funds for a new healthcare training facility at Cedars-Sinai. Grammy Award-winner Steve Tyrell’s performance promises to steal the show. Mark your calendars for Dec. 9, when Project Restore’s Los Angeles Heritage Awards Gala (tickets $500, tables from $5,000) will raise funds to benefit the nonprofit’s goal of restoring L.A.’s historic structures. Also Dec. 9, Make-A-Wish’s Wishing Well Winter Gala (tickets $500, tables $5,000) aims to raise money for Wish Kids in L.A. In the past two years, the organization has garnered nearly $2 million. Seasons greetings, indeed.

It’s been quite a year for Jorge Valencia, executive director and CEO of Point Foundation, the L.A.-based organization dedicated to providing scholarships for promising LGBTQ students across the United States. First, there was the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. “Never in my lifetime did I think I’d see that,” says the 52-year-old activist, who grew up in a Mexican Mormon household in the tiny town of McAllen, Texas, and struggled with his own sexuality for years before coming out while a student at Brigham Young University. “And then there is this whole transgender rights awareness,” says Valencia, referring to the remarkable transformation of Caitlyn Jenner, right here in Los Angeles. “I think Caitlyn has done a phenomenal job of bringing this issue to an international platform. I get that her story is different from the majority of transgender people, but nobody would be talking about it had it not been for her.” Valencia has witnessed Jenner’s story unfold firsthand, having been introduced to her in typical Hollywood fashion: “One of our board members is Judith Light, and she is represented by the same publicist—isn’t that how it works?” Valencia jokes. In October, Jenner made a high-profile appearance at the fourth annual Voices on Point gala, where she presented awards to two of the organization’s alumni, Rhys Ernst, co-producer for Amazon’s Transparent, and Zach Zyskowsik, producer on the ABC Family docuseries Becoming Us. Since 2001, Point Foundation has invested more than $18 million in the education of Point Scholars. “We are so grateful that a new member of our community joined us to recognize the challenging journey and inspirational accomplishments of Point Scholars and so many LGBTQ students,” Valencia says. Point Foundation, 5055 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 501, L.A., 323.933.1234

On the Scene
One of Point Foundation’s greatest success stories is Alex Morse, who became the first openly gay mayor of an American city when he was elected in his hometown of Holyoke, Mass., in 2011. “Anything and everything pales in comparison to seeing our students achieving their goals,” Valencia says.

Don’t Miss
The organization’s next big event will be its annual Point Honors, which is taking place at The New York Public Library in April. Past attendees have included notables like Lena Dunham and Jeffrey Tambor.

1 / Amanda Seyfried
The actress advocates Best Friends Animal Society’s mission to end pet euthanization. Seyfried says, “If we all adopted our next pet, we might one day save them all.”

2 / Eric McCormack
McCormack fell in love with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when he adopted his dog, Penny. “No organization epitomizes ‘rescue’ like ASPCA.” says the actor. “It works hard to help keep pets in caring homes.” 

3 / Ian Somerhalder
With his goal to positively impact the world’s creatures, the actor established the Ian Somerhalder Foundation in 2010. “I founded ISF to help create a compassionate and sustainable world,” he says.

4 / Jenna Dewan Tatum
When she’s off the dance floor, Tatum devotes her time to The Humane Society’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign, focusing on ending cosmetic testing on animals. “It’s important for animals to have a voice,” she states.

5 / Wendi McLendon-Covey
This comedian is completely serious when it comes to supporting Kitty Bungalow. She says, “The nonprofit is a small-but-mighty cat rescue. It helps keep cats out of shelters and the feline population in check.”

In 1981, Ted Arison—co-founder of Carnival Cruises—and his wife, Lin, established the National YoungArts Foundation to support emerging talents. Now, the organization is living on through their granddaughter Sarah Arison, who splits her time between Miami (where YoungArts is headquartered), New York and L.A., and has launched regional programs in all three cities. Each year, YoungArts receives more than 11,000 applicants, before choosing about 800 winners to participate in its signature National YoungArts Weeks—a series of enrichment experiences, workshops, performances and masterclasses with mentors like Debbie Allen, Frank Gehry and Martin Scorsese. Approaching its fourth year in the City of Angels, YoungArts LA 2016 will take place Feb. 16 through 21 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. With impressive alumni like Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Doug Aitken, it’s no surprise that L.A. is quickly becoming one of YoungArts’ most impactful markets. “Los Angeles is already a center for emerging artists with so many great cultural institutions,” says Arison. “We are looking to create a strong base of students and supporters in L.A. to ensure that every talented young artist in Southern California receives the necessary support to continue their education and career.” 800.970.2787

165,000 The number of dollars raised for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in the first annual Play For P.I.N.K. Kapalua auction, which featured luxe travel packages like a five-night stay at London’s Dorchestor Hotel. After losing her 67-year-old mother to stage 4 breast cancer, L.A.-based Stacy Small, founder of Elite Travel International, was determined to make a positive impact on the terrible disease. “I actually thought my mom was invincible and would beat the odds,” explains Small, who created the charitable initiative. “Eventually there were no new drugs that could stave off her cancer. That is what we desperately need to change.” With the substantial amount of money raised, Small is well on her way to helping make a meaningful change and find a cure.

When it comes to Julie Greenbaum and Yael Cohen Braun, the saying “great minds think alike” rings true. A little more than one year ago, the 20-something altruists made the tough but practical decision to merge their same-named charities, FCancer, together. “This sounds terrible, but we had to personally be in a place where we were willing to put our egos aside and do what was in the best interest of our organizations,” explains Cohen Braun, the wife of successful music executive Scooter Braun. “If we could do it together, it would be exponentially better.” With the motto “Prevent, Detect, Unite,” the L.A. residents—who both happen to be Canadian natives—are on a mission to educate the community on cancer prevention and detection, and provide a safe haven for those affected by disease. “There are a lot of cancers that don’t have annual screenings and diagnostics that make it easy [to detect],” explains Cohen Braun who started her charity in 2009 in honor of her mother, a breast cancer survivor. “The first step is knowing your family history. When you know what you’re at the highest risk for, you can know what to watch out for.” Greenbaum, who launched her organization in 2010, continues, “It’s also important to be an advocate for your own health. My mother passed away from ovarian cancer. She was running around for three months with undiagnosed symptoms, with every doctor telling her she was fine. Eventually she took matters into her own hands and scheduled an ultrasound which found the illness.” Few realize that 90 percent of cancer is curable when caught at stage 1—a compelling fact that these ladies want known. The nonprofit also plans to create programs that will spread the word about the HPV vaccine and its power to decrease the risk of cervical cancer. When asked what legacy they want to leave behind, Greenbaum remarks without hesitation, “I look at FCancer as an outlet for people to get information and connect with others.” Cohen Braun chimes in, “And sometimes it’s just a [safe] place to say ‘f*ck cancer.’” FCancer, 2434 Lincoln Blvd., 2nd Floor, Venice

On the Scene
Since merging, FCancer has garnered $750,000 to bolster its mission of “Prevent, Detect, Unite.”

Don’t Miss
Just in time for the holidays, FCancer has come together with tech accessories company X-Doria to launch a limited-edition line of iPhone cases ($30) with the goal of increasing brand awareness and raising money for the cause.

For more on L.A.'s philanthropy scene, plus sartorial inspiration from some of fashion's most philanthropic designers, check out the digital edition here.