Lauren Potter of Glee beamed all morning long while serving as the Grand Marshal of New Horizons 7th Annual 5K Run/Walk on the Horizon, benefiting individuals with developmental disabilities. The gathering of the New Horizon community, athletes, and celebrity stars at The Hansen Dam Aquatics Center in Lake View Terrace this weekend was filled with a beautiful ease and joy. Communications Director, Leilani Downer, relayed to me that this fundraiser, different from their formal galas, is particularly special because it serves as a means to gather their whole community together to participate and show continued support for the incredible people affected by the important work of New Horizons. What she said resonated in the open smiles, gleaming eyes, and caring embraces I witnessed within the crowd.
Celebrities showed their support by coming out to share in the good energy and cheer on all those involved in New Horizons. Hosts, Cody Simpson (Singer) and Brant Daugherty (Pretty Little Liars), joined Lauren on stage to give her a special gift of flowers to accompany her Grand Marshal sash, after the three of them were honored for their contributions to New Horizons with adorable Chuck Taylor piggy banks. Thankfulness was in the air, right up to the final awards given to the fastest runners and most effective fundraising team.
And, there is a lot to have gratitude for. It was not that far off when people with developmental disabilities where cast away from the normal throes of society, and instead were institutionalized, hidden away from their families, not spoken of, not attended to, not given the love that everyone deserves to feel and exchange. But this once common reality is now far off in the distance, thanks to good people and organizations such as New Horizons. As actress, Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones and Fast and Furious 7) relayed to me, New Horizons is special and important because they work to not only give individuals with disabilities a place of community filled with care and love, but also offer guidance to help them develop skills, independence, artistic expression, and even the ability to participate in the workforce. New Horizons is close to Nathalie’s heart. Her mom serves as a care-taker and often gives long-term help to people with disabilities within her own home, giving them the gift of her own family’s love, encouragement and hope. Nathalie spoke fondly of the individuals whom she grew up with and have become an integral part of her life. Her sister too is a caretaker. And it was clear from talking with Nathalie, that she was raised in a very loving home. She is not only beautiful on the outside, but beautiful on the inside too!
Also in attendance was New Leash on Your Life, an organization that provides a prison dog-training program that both saves the lives of shelter dogs and helps inmates to not only learn to train and care for dogs, but to experience pure happiness in building a relationship with a canine mate. Lisa Erving of New Leash on Life showcased her two incredibly fluffy Akita’s at the event to spread the word about the organization. She often travels to schools with these gorgeous work dogs to teach kids and adults how to care for, communicate with, and develop trust.
The morning’s events were complete with a group of New Horizons dancers leading the crowd to get down with Parrell‘s Happy, a song and dance by a Lucile Ball impersonator, a “Happy Birthday” interlude for one of the community members, and the most adorable shout out of love to New Horizons by attending celebrities.
During the ceremonies the stage was backed by laughter and smiles from the plethora of celebrity supporters. Hosts, Lauren Potter, Cody Simpson and Brant Daugherty were joined by Emma Slater (Dancing with the Stars), Sasha Faber (Dancing with the Stars), Casey Moss (Days of our Lives), Gigi Hadid (Sports Illustrated Model and Cody’s girlfriend), Tylor Spreitler (Melissa & Joey) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones and Fast and Furious 7) and graciously lined the stage. Each one of these stars have spent their lives pursuing their own dreams, and through their support on this day they showed that they believe, as Eleanor Roosevelt declared, that “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” and that we all deserve to dream, to believe in and pursue those dreams to someday behold our futures?
You can support New Horizons and enjoy a fun country concert at the Ford Amphitheatre on June 21st with emcee Gary Bryan of K-Earth 101’s Morning Show, musical performances by Johnny Rivers and Jimmy Webb, and a special presentation of the 2014 “Person of Note Award” to The Honorable Mitchell Englander, LA City Council Member of the 12th District.
WHAT: Benefit Concert for New Horizons and Presentation of “Person of Note” Award
WHERE: Ford Amphitheatre
WHEN: June, 21st 7:00PM
TICKETS: 323-GO-1-FORD, www.fordtheatres.com, select Vons stores