With back to school time on the horizon, we’ve shined a spotlight on eight kid-centric causes our agents and friends support that benefit children around the world. From an organization dedicated to helping children pursue their dreams of higher education to programs focused on children’s health and the arts, these individuals and global organizations are making a difference, one child at a time.
Dr. Jon Marashi, friend of The Agency and neighbor of our Brentwood office, opened our eyes to this incredible organization, Learning Lab Ventures, whose mission is to disrupt generational poverty and empower high-achieving, underrepresented students to graduate from top colleges. Hollywood’s go-to dentist by day, Dr. Marashi spends his downtime as a founding board member of the organization, helping to raise vital funds for scholarships and programs that will make it possible for children to receive the education they deserve. 95% of high school seniors who enter the program go on to a four-year college or university, including Harvard, MIT, USC and UCLA, and have received more than $625,000 in scholarships to date. The organization provides tutoring sessions six days a week and hosts fundraisers year-round to benefit its students and programs. This year’s annual Back to School Giveaway event will be held on August 6th and will help provide children with backpacks, books, healthy snacks, toothpaste from Hello!, personal hygiene products from Honest Co., and assorted supplies they need for the year ahead. For more information, visit Learning Lab Ventures’ website.
In 2017, artist and designer Sanam Daswani was volunteering at a Mumbai orphanage alongside her eight-year-old son. Her son’s Spider-Man backpack caught the attention of the children in the orphanage, and a little boy asked if he could have the pack. Witnessing the boy’s excitement over the simple item—and wanting to share that feeling with the rest of the children—Sanam set out to make sure each child had a fun backpack of their own. In early 2018, she created Sonnet + Rose, a line of stylish, all-vegan handbags to fuel that drive. The mission-driven brand ensures that for each handbag sold, a backpack is donated to a child in rural India. For more information about Sonnet + Rose, visit its website.
With the support of philanthropic funders, known as Partners in Play, Children's Hospital Los Angeles works in partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers and others to help fund vital resources such as counseling, playrooms, teen lounges and other facilities to benefit patients and their families during difficult times. “The most meaningful gift I ever received was a gift I gave,” says Craig Knizek, Co-Managing Director of The Agency’s Sherman Oaks office. As a board member for CHLA’s "Child Life — Partners in Play” program, Craig committed to a five-year annual donation from The Adam Hunter Knizek Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to the memory of his first born infant son who passed away in 1995. For more information about contributing or becoming a Partner in Play, visit CHLA's website.
Over the years, The Agency’s Leonard Rabinowitz has been a major benefactor of The Accelerated Schools Los Angeles, a thriving community of public charter schools in South Central Los Angeles serving 1,750 students. One of Leonard’s proudest achievements is having donated and repurposed one of his DTLA buildings and multi-acre sites to become home of a charter school for children. The elementary school was named School of the Year by Time Magazine, and their Wallis Annenberg High School boasts a graduation rate of over 90%, with a similar amount pursuing higher education. In 2017, Leonard chaired the Capital Campaign, helping to raise $38 million to complete the construction of its newest building for the Accelerated Elementary Charter School, a dual language school for English Language Learners.
P.S. ARTS is dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing high-quality arts education to California’s underserved public schools and communities. Its annual fundraiser gives 1,500 adults and children an opportunity to experience the joy and creativity that nearly 25,000 students discover every day in California’s P.S. classrooms. The Agency’s Cindy Ambuehl is an avid supporter of P.S. ARTS, sponsoring an arts and crafts booth at the event each year. “There is no limit to the long-term, positive impact art education can have on shaping a child’s mind and creativity,” says Cindy. “It is for this reason that I’m such a strong supporter of P.S. ARTS.”
Raised in Mexico, The Agency’s Gloria Castellanos regularly returns to her roots as the founder of Sunshine Alegria Outreach, a nonprofit organization that assists underprivileged children and families in Mexico by providing food, clothing and basic necessities through a core of volunteers working closely with local churches and their representatives. "What I hope to instill in these children and parents is that no matter what advantages or disadvantages the world has given you, there's always somebody who will believe in you,” she says. “If that person is not found outside of yourself, then you can find that person inside yourself.”
Operation Rainbow is an organization dedicated to performing free orthopedic surgery for children and young adults in developing countries worldwide that don’t have access to related medical procedures or equipment. The organization also provides continuing education to international health care providers to encourage medical self-sufficiency. An avid supporter of Operation Rainbow, agent Michelle Long recently joined the organization on a medical mission to Mexico.
Vistas for Children is a distinguished philanthropic organization comprised of a 100% volunteer group of women from the Greater South Bay area, including The Agency’s Sharon Umansky Benton, an active community supporter. The mission of Vistas for Children is to raise funds to help special needs children and to be a system of support for these children and their families. Since its inception in 1978, the hallmark of Vistas has been its unconditional commitment to children with special needs throughout the community. This includes, but is not limited to, children who are multi-disabled, abused, homeless, terminally ill, suffer from pediatric illnesses, or born with retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye). As a result of its hard work, the organization has appropriated over $7,000,000 to deserving charities, helping over 30,000 children in need.