Small children were working intently on homemade wreaths with tree limbs, glitter, ribbon, and glue. Entertainment industry figures mingled, flirted, and networked nearby, sipping cocktails and munching on catered treats on the deck of a gorgeous Bel-Air home. The scene was typical for the myriad Hollywood holiday soirees going on right now, but people were partying for a purpose on Tuesday night at actress Sela Ward and Howard Sherman's home. The event centered around a silent auction for the Children's Action Network, an organization that provides scholarships, resources, and raises awareness for foster care adoptions in the United States. The organization is also responsible for presenting CBS's annual Home for the Holidays special, an hour-long concert interwoven with stories of foster care adoption. This year's performers include Katy Perry, Nelly, and Ricky Martin.
Shelley Reid, senior vice president of Fox Television Studios (and one of the co-chairs of the event), took a break from the mingling to check on the silent auction. For months, Reid had helped reach out to Los Angeles actors, artists, and designers to donate their interpretations of a holiday wreath to the event. She clasped her hands and smiled, "this is our most attended event, and we've got a lot of little bidding wars going on tonight."
Photos by Cindy Gold/GoldWong.
Foster care advocate and Sideways actress Virginia Madsen was also there to lend her support to the organization, and spoke openly about how she considered adopting a child through the foster care system. Though she ended up deciding not to go that route in the end, Madsen's certification as a foster care parent made her a strong advocate for the "fost-adopt" process. She described attending an adoption ceremony for 130 children in Los Angeles with her friend Nia Vardalos (who underwent the fost-adopt process last year): "It was so heart-wrenching. It was so moving. I couldn't stop crying the whole day... As cynical as people can get about this world and where we're going, when you see people really putting themselves out there, to get so deeply involved in a child that they would adopt them and bring them into their family--I don't know how to describe it. It was extraordinary."
In the United States, there are 115,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted. Jennifer Perry, executive director of the Children's Action Network (and the master party-planner of the night) urges prospective parents to overcome their fears by taking the time to de-mystify the process for themselves. Her bottom line:
"A child in foster care is just like any other child. They want to know where their toothbrush is and they want to come home to the same place every day after school. They want someone to come to their soccer games and someone to come to their graduation. It's just important to remember that they're kids, and given love and support, they can blossom."