By: Kate Ferguson
Thursday night marked the 6th Annual Norma Jean Gala from Uplift Family Services at Hollygrove, which also marked the 150th anniversary of the agency. The event was held at the W Hollywood and presented by Houlihan Lokey.
This year the gala honored Matt Bomer and his husband Simon Halls with the Ambassador of Children Award for their work and commitment to the agency. I had the chance to catch up with the two on the red carpet, where Matt explained that Janie Bryant was the one who got him involved in the organization to begin with.
“[Janie] one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with, who comes from her heart with everything whether it’s costume designing or her work in an organization. She reached out to me about them and her involvement and the incredible work they’ve done here. We had the chance to tour the facilities and get to know a lot of the volunteers, some of the kids there, and some of the counselors who work in the program.”
The Uplift Family Services agency is one of the largest and most comprehensive mental and behavioral health treatment programs in the state. It aims to provide opportunities for at-risk children, and 90 percent of the kids that exit their programs end up staying in school and out of trouble.
“The statistics of how many kids they’re able to keep in school with the programs they have there are really incredible, just the counseling they provide, help with the homework, and the fun. They’re engaged creatively, they’re playing sports…it’s really about creating these safe experiences where they can just be a child.”
Simon added that he and Matt also have a personal connection to the organization since it’s provided them the opportunity to teach a lot to their own three children as well.
“Your whole worldview changes when you have kids, but the interesting thing about this place is that we drive by Hollygrove every day taking the kids to school, so Hollygrove means a lot to us not just because it’s a place that we love to help but it’s also sort of a teachable moment for us without kids. There’s some kids that have a tougher way and we all need to help each other.”
Matt explained how having that kind of support as a child shaped his own worldview today.
“We both were fortunate to come from families that lead by example in terms of just doing volunteer work, helping out in your community. And there were times as an adolescent where I didn’t always appreciate that…but now that I look back on that my parents were really leading by example and teaching me how important it is to give back and create a great community around me.”
Other guests of the event included Janie Bryant, Christopher Gorham, Simon Halls, Peter Weller, and Busy Philipps who MC’d the evening. The night kicked off with a cocktail reception sponsored by Kogevinas Santa Barbara Montecito Real Estate. During the cocktail reception guests has the chance to purchase photography that was done by children in the Uplift Family Services program, as well as bid on items in a silent auction with proceeds benefitting programs in the agency.
Items available in the auction included items like a meet and greet with President Obama, a stay in an Oceanfront suite at One&Only Palmilla Cabo, and private dinner screening with The Mindy Project stars Mindy Kaling and Ike Barinholtz.
Following the cocktail and silent auction portion of the evening, guests were swept to the dining room for a three-course dinner and wine pairings.