What makes a successful charity gala? Well connections, for one, and having friends in high places helps. This year’s co-chairs of the Children’s Ball — United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and his wife, Abeer, along with their friends Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier and his wife, Amy — have plenty of both.
The two couples with strong Washington ties and personal connections to the Children’s National Health System, raised more than $10 million for the Northwest Washington-based children’s hospital. Oh, and a surprise appearance by Grammy and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson didn’t hurt either.
Both the Al Otaibas and the Baiers have personally witnessed what Children’s National can do. The ambassador began working with Children’s National in 2009, when the government of Abu Dhabi gifted the hospital $150 million, creating the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. Years later, his second child, daughter Samia, was diagnosed with a rare lung condition. Thanks to Children’s National, Samia is now a healthy toddler.
“The four of us co-chairs lived the experience of Children’s National. We know firsthand what a great children’s hospital it is,” said Amy Baier.
The Baiers’ oldest son, Paul, has had multiple open-heart surgeries at the hospital, an experience that Bret Baier and 6-year-old Paul have documented in their upcoming book, “Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage & Love,” which will be release in June.
As anchor of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier,” Baier had no problem stepping on stage to emcee the evening. He and Norah O’Donnell conducted the live auction, which featured tickets to the Kennedy Center Honors and jewelry worn by Beyonce Knowles, designed by Lorraine Schwartz and 12-year-old Jozlyn Miller, who received a bone marrow transplant at the hospital. The auction and an earlier call for cash helped the Children’s National Medical Center to raise $8,734,300.
Soon after the auction ended, the Ambassador announced that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had donated $1 million each, bringing the night’s fundraising to $10.7 million, a record for the event.
Another surprise was in store for ball guests. Award-winning singer and actress, Jennifer Hudson performed a private concert to support the evening’s mission, ending the night with “And I am Telling You,” from “Dreamgirls.”
Afterward, guests moved across the hall for an after party featuring DJ Patris Gero and Jim “Jimmy Sax” Rolland.
Correction: This blog post originally reported that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s prime minister, had donated $1 million each to the Children’s National Medical Center. This was incorrect. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, each donated $1 million.
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