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Red Carpet At Mending Kids 'Rock N' Roll All-Star Event'

Alexandra Aftalion |
February 15, 2014 | 1:15 a.m. PST


Mending Kids Executive Director Marchelle Sellers (Alex Aftalion/Neon Tommy)
Mending Kids Executive Director Marchelle Sellers (Alex Aftalion/Neon Tommy)
The powerhouse that took over The Sunset Strip House of Blues this Friday night goes by two names: Mending Kids International (MKI) and Gene Simmons. Some of music's biggest movers-and-shakers came together to support this fundraiser benefitting Mending Kids International, a non-profit dedicated to providing life-saving surgeries to thousands of children across the map. 

Since 2006, the non-profit has saved and transformed over 1,500 children’s lives in 54 developing countries around the globe—including the U.S.—through multiple types of surgeries, specializing in cardiac, neuro, and orthopedic to name a few. Mending Kids supplies surgical training, research, and prevention efforts as well. The charity is widely known for their separation of Guatemalan formerly conjoined twins “The Two Marias”. 

Mending Kids founded a program by the name of U.S. Surgeries, which sends children in need of complicated surgeries to Southern California for treatment. The other three programs MKI has established are the Hometown Mission program, geared toward providing treatment to American children who do not have access to surgical care; the Surgical Mission program, which focuses on deploying surgical teams to areas where there are large numbers of children in need of surgery; and the International Surgeries program, which pinpoints children in remote areas in need of surgical attention. 

Mending Kids Executive Director Marchelle Sellers stopped to chat with Neon Tommy on the red carpet about Gene Simmons’ involvement with the non-profit, and this fundraiser’s inception. Sellers recounted the story of how Simmons said he would give a private KISS concert to the highest bidder in the house at one of MKI’s events. Sellers remembered being stunned. Within ten minutes, Brad and Tina Hillstrom, Dr. Blake Johnson, and a few others all said they wanted that KISS concert. They agreed to make the private KISS concert into a fundraiser for Mending Kids. In a couple of days, the team booked the House of Blues for the fundraiser. Sellers outlined how they have been working on this fundraiser since November, and how excited everyone was to have it all come together.

Simmons, the Hillstroms, Dr. Johnson, and the rest of the team want to do this event again; Sellers said that they’re “going to [have the fundraiser] for the next five years.” She went on to say, “We’ll be spending all of our Valentine’s Days here.” Sellers noted how the night “has come fast and furious, but, at the same time, it came out of an inspiration [of Mending Kids] doing such important work…[Simmons and other benefactors] want to help raise more money to help even more kids because there are bigger projects out there, and there’s more of a reach that we need.” 

When asked about how Simmons found Mending Kids, Sellers told the account of Simmons attending a Mending Kids poker event. Through a mutual friend, Simmons came to the poker night in 2012, and had a great time. Sellers noted, “[Simmons] and his family have been big supporters of Mending Kids, and we invited them to the Gala to be honored. [The whole family] was the honoree at the Gala. They are incredibly philanthropic; Gene does a ton of work, and so do Shannon, Nick, and Sophie. All of them have their own interests, and they are a very philanthropic family. From the Gala, [the organization] was really something that got [the family’s] interest, and solidified their partnership. They also met a little boy from Kenya named Victor, and provided some resource so Victor could have the surgery that he needed. The family got to meet with [Victor], spend time with him, and I think Gene will finally admit that [Victor got him]. Gene loves talking about that story.”

The fundraiser’s guest list included Tom Jones; Nick Simmons; Sophie Simmons; Brenna Whitaker of The Brenna Whitaker Little Big Band; Paris Hilton; Taylor Dayne; Janice Dickinson; Penn Jillette; Mel Gibson; Darren Criss; Caroline Cusumano; Victor Ortiz; Nia Peeples; and Shannon Tweed. The performers of the night included Tom Jones, KISS, Natasha Beddingfield, and Kenny Wayne Shephard. 

ABC Family’s "Pretty Little Liars" star Nia Peeples spoke with Neon Tommy about the music on the hit show. When asked whose music she’d love to see placed on the show, she responded, “My son!” Her son’s name is Chris Hayzel, and she particularly recommended looking up his songs “Stories Told”, “Not Ashamed”, and “Caroline”. Peeples was most excited to see Tom Jones perform that evening. 

Professional boxer Victor Ortiz conversed about dabbling in music, his upcoming matches, and how Simmons got him involved with the fundraiser. Author, illusionist, comedian, musician, actor, and inventor Penn Jillette also articulated how Simmons reached out to him to be involved with Mending Kids and the “Rock n’ Roll All-Star Event” of the evening. 

Sporting a gorgeous leather dress, jazz artist Brenna Whitaker expressed her excitement about performing with Tom Jones at the fundraiser. The Amy Winehouse-like songstress told Neon Tommy about how the performance with Jones is a dream come true for her, and how much of an inspiration Jones and Stevie Wonder have been. She also told Neon Tommy about how her “little big band” of talented jazz musicians—many of them being USC grads—are mainly inspired by the 20s, 50s, and 60s jazz scenes. Whitaker’s debut album will be coming out this summer on Verve/Universal. She has even performed at Gene Simmons’ wedding, along with Hugh Hefner’s wedding. 

The fundraiser also featured a showcase of the late Matt Lamb’s artwork available for auction, as well as Paris Hilton’s DJ talents. 

Reach Contributor Alex Aftalion here and follow her on Twitter



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