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Dream Academy News | Stars Chef Jeff Henderson, NFL’s Mark Ingram, Miss America grace 11th Annual Power of a Dream Gala
Friday May 4, 2012
For supporters of the U.S. Dream Academy, it was an all-American, star-studded night.
The 11th Annual Power of a Dream Gala, presented by Amway, featured pro athletes, celebrity chefs, and even Miss America urging kids to dream big, each offering an emotional testimony of how incarceration had affected either them or a family member.
“We want to give our young [people] hope because these young kids are geniuses, just like I was,” said celebrity chef Jeff Henderson, who during his keynote address recounted his journey from prison at age 27 to now 20 years later the star of the Food Network’s “The Chef Jeff Project.”
It was in jail that a fellow inmate told him he was smart but needed to build character and integrity. “So here I am today,” Henderson said to resounding applause. He spoke to nearly 500 supporters on hand for the May 1 gala at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The event, which raised more than $1 million for national Dream Academy learning centers, was hosted by Cynne’ Simpson, the Emmy Award-winning ABC7 news anchor, and Lamman Rucker, star of Tyler Perry’s “Meet The Browns.”
The evening featured vocal performances by the Dream Kids and the Grammy Award-winning duo Mary Mary.
Dream Academy Legacy Awards were given to Kathy Victor, chair of the Independent Business Owners Association International, and hall-of-fame sportscaster Pat Sumerall. Summerall was introduced by fellow sportscaster James Brown. “He has been passionate about displaying love and helping to bring love to so many young people,” Brown said of Summerall.
“This has been one of my dreams for a long time,” Summerall said. Of Dream Academy founder Wintley Phipps, he said, “I congratulate Mr. Phipps in forming this wonderful organization. Dreams do come true.”
Phipps, who delivered a vocal performance of “I Believe”, earlier in the evening paid tribute to Charles Colson, the former aide to president Richard Nixon and a founder Prison Fellowship Ministries, who passed away last month. “He was my mentor, he was my friend,” Phipps said. “His work in prison ministry was the inspiration for my work with kids of incarcerated parents.” A tribute was also made to Congressman Donald Payne, a long time support of the Dream Academy, who passed away in March of this year.
In one of the more emotional speeches of the evening, Heisman Trophy winner and New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram Jr., who is the son of an incarcerated father and founder of the Mark Ingram Foundation, told the audience of his own goals.
“Seeing the Dream Academy makes me hope my foundation can be as successful one day,” he said.
Ingram also expressed appreciation to his father and encouraged kids, saying, “Because you have a parent incarcerated doesn’t mean you can’t still have a great relationship with them. If they just put their mind to it they can accomplish anything they want.”
Ingram received one of the two Presidents Awards given during the evening. The other was given to Lars Houmann, CEO of Florida Hospital of the Adventist Health Systems. “This honor motivates me and our organization to do even more for people like we’ve seen tonight who can benefit from the power of a dream,” Houmann said.
One of the most special speeches of the evening was 10-year-old Michael Jarwlee, who introduced Miss America Laura Kaeppeler to the audience, one of the biggest moments of his young life. He froze for a moment upon first seeing the celebrity audience and bright lights from the stage. “Sorry, I’m nervous,” he said, before charging on and thanking Kaeppeler and welcoming her to the stage for her special presentation from DreamKids.
“I tried my best and I just went on. It felt so exciting," Jarwlee said later of his experience at the gala. “Oh and I got to meet Lamman Rucker,” he boasted.
Kaeppeler, the nation’s top pageant winner, from Wisconsin, spoke of her challenge as a teenager when her father served 18 months in federal prison for a white collar crime. She has partnered with the U.S. Dream Academy for her platform of mentoring children of incarcerated parents. This year’s Mentor of the Year was 2nd year mentor Berthenia Logan-Momodu from the D.C. Learning Center, whose mentee Samantha has seen incredible gains in academics, confidence, and her relationship with her family.
Also making an appearance at this year’s gala was U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD). He thanked founder Phipps for pursuing his dream of mentoring kids and urged supporters at the event and nationwide to continue supporting the foundation.
“If we didn’t have a U.S. Dream Academy we would have to create it,” Cummings said. “Our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see. We should all dig a little deeper to send children to that future strong.”