Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were honored Thursday for their global humanitarian work at a star-studded benefit marking the 75th anniversary of Save the Children.
Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also was recognized. The foundation has given $110 million to the nonprofit organization over 11 years to reduce child mortality rates in 18 developing counties, said Mike Kiernan, spokesman for Save the Children, which was created in 1932 to ensure the well-being of children worldwide.
The evening paid tribute to Bush and Clinton for their humanitarian efforts worldwide and "specifically for their joint effort to raise money for victims of the tsunami (in Indonesia) and of (Hurricane) Katrina," Kiernan said.
Academy Award-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson, the evening's master of ceremonies, was among a long list of celebrities and dignitaries invited to the ceremony in a tent set up outside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Avery Fisher Hall.
Other invitees included Julianne Moore, Mischa Barton, Edie Falco, Blythe Danner and Mark Kennedy Shriver, vice president and managing director of Save the Children's U.S. programs, and Charles MacCormack, president of Save the Children.
The evening featured Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, a group of musicians who lived in refugee camps after fleeing their war-torn homeland. The band's leader, Reuben Koroma, worked with Save the Children in the camps, where he encouraged children to express their experiences through music and dance.
An award-winning documentary of the All Stars' story debuted on PBS this summer, and their music is featured in the Academy Award-nominated movie "Blood Diamond."
Through its work and that of other charities, Save the Children says most children around the world are polio free, the number of children who can read and write has increased by almost 50 percent, and half as many children under age 5 die each year since 1960.
But Save the Children says much work still remains. About 77 million children, most of them girls, do not attend school. Natural disasters, civil wars and HIV and AIDS create new challenges every day, the organization says.