HOUSTON, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On January 14, the annual UNICEF southwest regional gala took place to honor those who have made key contributions to UNICEF's mission to save and improve children's lives worldwide. The annual fundraising event raised $738,750, setting a new record for the region's event. Ticket proceeds will support UNICEF's efforts to reduce the number of preventable deaths of children under the age of five from 24,000 per day to zero. In the wake of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, proceeds from the live and silent auctions, along with additional contributions, will benefit Haiti emergency relief efforts.
The annual gala hosted by philanthropist, Becca Cason Thrash was attended by special guests, U.S. Fund for UNICEF President and CEO Caryl Stern, UNICEF Ambassador Lucy Liu, U.S. Fund for UNICEF National Board Chair Tony Pantaleoni, U.S. Fund for UNICEF National Board Member and Town & Country Editor-in-Chief Pamela Fiori, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Southwest Regional Board Member Monsour Taghdisi and Fashion Designer Naeem Khan.
"UNICEF is working around the clock to save the lives of 24,000 children who die needlessly every day; however UNICEF cannot meet this massive challenge alone, "said Lucy Liu, UNICEF Ambassador. "The Houston community has taken action on behalf of the world's children, through their support of education, advocacy and fundraising initiatives to help UNICEF reach a day when zero children die of preventable causes."
The evening included live and silent auctions providing guests the opportunity to bid on various items including the opportunity to make outright donations. These proceeds, nearly 50% of total revenue, will benefit Haiti emergency relief including lifesaving equipment such as urgently needed medical supplies, oral rehydration salts, water purification tablets, and tarps and tents to provide temporary housing.
"The compassion and generosity of Houstonians were clearly on display Thursday evening at UNICEF's gala event," said Caryl Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "There's real evidence that together we're achieving progress on reducing the daily rate of preventable child deaths, and what better way to usher in a new year than with a pledge to continue support of UNICEF's life-saving work so that one day we will achieve zero preventable deaths. And the portion of proceeds designated for Haiti couldn't have come at a better time, providing immediate support during the first few critical days after the earthquake."
Dinner host Becca Cason Thrash is celebrated regionally, nationally and internationally for her charity work, the numerous fundraisers she has held in her home and the first-ever fundraiser held inside the Louvre. Her UNICEF involvement includes co-chairing the Houston gala relief benefiting victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Additionally, Cason Thrash has chaired events for and/or served on the board of Best Buddies International, MD Anderson Cancer Center; Blue Ribbon Fathers/Honor Thy Father; After-School All Stars; the Houston Holocaust Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts/Houston; Houston Grand Opera; Houston Ballet; March of Dimes and others.
"John and I were pleased to open our home in support of UNICEF, to recognize Lucy for her dedication to saving and improving children's lives worldwide, and to draw on the big heart of Texans responding to urgent needs of children in Haiti," said Becca Cason Thrash.
Presenting sponsors of the evening included Nidhika and Pershant Mehta and Houston Magazine; major underwriters included Rosemarie and Matt Johnson and Marathon Oil Corp.
For more information, please visit www.unicefusa.org.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in over 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.
UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress -- the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. But still, 24,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.