Nigel Lythgoe, Katy Perry and the families of Dream Foundation were honored on Saturday night at the 11th Annual Celebration of Dreams Gala held at Bacara Resort & Spa. The star-studded lineup included Casey Abrams, Cat Cora, Marcia Gay Harden, Randy Jackson, Jane Lynch, DJ Mia Moretti, Adam Shankman, The Tenors and Jennifer Tilly, who all lent their talents as part of the show.
The mission of Dream Foundation is to enhance the quality of life for individuals and their families facing a life-threatening illness by fulfilling a heart’s final wish. The gala opened with The Tenors, formerly The Canadian Tenors, whose surprise comedic mash-up of Katy Perry songs garnered laughter and applause from Perry, as well as the nearly 600 donors, supporters and volunteers in attendance. It was the largest turnout in the event’s 11-year history.
As part of the evening, Randy Jackson presented Nigel Lythgoe and Jane Lynch presented Katy Perry with the prestigious Founder’s Humanitarian Award for the compassionate care and philanthropic service they lend the families served by Dream Foundation. Perry and Lythgoe follow in the footsteps of past honorees Jeff Bridges, Donna Karan and Rob Lowe, among others.
Lythgoe’s extensive relationship with Dream Foundation includes assisting with dreams involving acknowledgement by a personal hero and facilitating talent for many fundraising events via his affiliations with American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.
“I give back because I enjoy it,” Lythgoe said upon receiving his recognition. “I feel incredibly moved by the families of Dream Foundation. These people inspire me and show me what’s important in life. I will remain steadfast in the philosophy that true success can only be achieved by those you have helped. I applaud our collective commitment to foundations like this. Let’s do more. God knows the world needs it.”
Lythgoe gave a firsthand account of his recent experience with cardiac arrest, as a way of gaining new perspective on the fragility of life.
Like many of the families served by Dream Foundation, Perry, a Santa Barbara native, has persevered amid adversity to fulfill her own dreams while remaining dedicated to helping others do the same. As part of her recognition, she received a special televised shout-out from pint-sized singing sensations, Sophia Grace and Rosie, whose energetic congratulations filled the ballroom with laughter and applause.
“There’s no place like home!” Perry announced to her hometown crowd, clicking her heels three times. “I’m a second-generation Santa Barbarian. I was born at Goleta Valley hospital. I know you’ve seen a variety of hair colors on me over the last year, including this black. When I was born here it was a nice squirrel brown. That’s an exclusive for you all tonight.
“‘Dreams’ is a word I use often in my vocabulary,” she continued. “It’s what motivated me from my very beginnings, beginning with playing my guitar at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Every now and then someone would come along with a bag of pistachios or an avocado ... It’s what’s taken me to where I am today.
“Dreaming — big or small — will always continue to be my mantra. To the dreamers, you are inspiring. And to the children of dreams, you are amazing and you are loved. From your ‘805 til I die’,” she continued, referring to the local area code, “Thank you for this incredible honor. Thank you, Dream Foundation.”
Sharing the spotlight with the honorees were what Dream Foundation founder and president Thomas Rollerson called “the true stars of the night” — the families of Dream Foundation, seven of whom were in attendance and took to the stage, sharing personal accounts of what their dream meant to them.
Rollerson, as well as gala co-chairwomen Jelinda DeVorzon, Mireille Noone and Bui Simon; Founding Ambassador Priscilla Presley; and Academy Award-winning actress/Dream Advocate Marcia Gay Harden, delivered a captivating, mission-driven message on behalf all who were gathered.
“It is an honor and a privilege to stand here among you, my friends,” Rollerson said to the 15 men, women and children at his side. “You are why Dream Foundation is here. You inspire me every day, and I love you all.”
Rounding out the night was a spectacular lineup of entertainment, which began with a special drum performance that audibly quantified 15,000 dreams — the total number Dream Foundation has served since its inception in 1994. The student drummers — many representing Rockshop Academy in Santa Barbara — performed under the direction of actor and veteran Blue Man Group member Jeffrey Doornbos and Dishwalla/The Penfifteen Club drummer George Pendergast, who also owns the Rockshop.
Writer, director, dancer and choreographer Adam Shankman — well known for his judging and choreography on So You Think You Can Dance — unveiled a dance number he choreographed as an ode to his good friend, Lythgoe.
Live auctioneers Jennifer Tilly, Jane Lynch and Grant Snyder lit up the stage with a high-energy auction that included such coveted items and experiences as reservations at New York City’s “impossible to get into” eatery, Rao’s; an acoustic guitar signed by Perry; a luxurious South African safari adventure; and a 12-day Mediterranean cruise.
Standout American Idol season 10 finalist Casey Abrams closed out the show with his rendition of “With a little help from my friends,” “Stuck in London,” “Georgia on My Mind” and this sentiment: “This my first time at Dream Foundation. I think it’s the coolest thing ever and I want to keep coming back.”
Guests dispersed to a high-energy after-party at Bacara’s Miró restaurant, presented by The Patrón Spirits Company, which offered an array of specially created “dream cocktails” just for the occasion. Internationally known DJ, Mia Moretti, hosted the party, and the Carl’s Jr. Star Diner served late bites upon exit.
Bacara executive chef David Reardon collaborated with celebrity chef Cat Cora to present the evening’s menu, which included beet and pistachios tricolor salad, Basque filet mignon, and a dessert duo accented with a white chocolate Dream Foundation logo.
The Celebration of Dreams Gala is imperative to Dream Foundation’s existence. The event generates nearly a third of the foundation’s entire operating budget, allowing for the fulfillment of thousands of final dreams. Dream Foundation is currently enjoying unprecedented growth in all areas of its service, most important in the dream program department. In 2011, overall dreams served were up 28 percent over 2010. The foundation anticipates serving more than 2,500 final dreams this year.
Event sponsors included CKE Restaurants Inc., Genentech, Lady Ridley-Tree, Michael Armand Hammer, Armand Hammer Foundation, Suzanne and David Johnson, Susan and Craig McCaw, Arlene Montesano, Bui and Herb Simon, and Colleen and Michael Taylor. Live Auction sponsors included World Odyssey Limited, Ohana Real Estate Investors, Montage, Bacara Resort & Spa, Crystal Cruises and Strictly Vacations and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
» Click here for more information on the Dream Foundation, or call 805.564.2131.
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— Kelly Sweda is the Dream Foundation’s communications manager.