Geena Davis will speak at United Way event in Phoenix

Geena Davis, an Academy Award winning actor who is one of Hollywood’s most respected stars, is coming to Phoenix to speak at a luncheon presented by the Women’s Leadership Council of the Valley of the Sun United Way.

“We Are UNITED,” a fundraising event to help fund Valley of the Sun United Way’s Breakfast in the Classroom program, will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 28 at The Phoenician Resort.

The Honorary Chairwoman of the event is Arizona First Lady Angela Ducey. Sponsorship opportunities and table sales are open, with information available at

Davis is best known for roles in films that became cultural landmarks such as “Thelma and Louise,” “A League of Their Own,” “Beetlejuice,” “Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Commander in Chief” — but she is also well known as a long-time advocate for women and is recognized for her tireless efforts on behalf of girls nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments.

All proceeds from this luncheon directly benefit the Valley of the Sun United Way Breakfast in the Classroom program. When children have access to a healthy breakfast, they are more likely to be focused on learning the rest of the day and succeed in their studies. Valley of the Sun United Way is on a mission to provide Breakfast in the Classroom to 130 schools and more than 74,000 children in need throughout Maricopa County. This is part of their effort to End Hunger in the Classroom by working with schools to provide meals to children and reduce chronic hunger. 

“Every day, children in our community go to school hungry, and many haven’t eaten since their lunch at school the day before,” said Merl Waschler, CEO of Valley of the Sun United Way. “This makes it far more difficult for them to focus and learn in class, and can have a detrimental effect on their academic career and chances for success.  Together with our Women’s Leadership Council, with our community and with the tremendous support of Geena Davis, we can change this.”

Last year’s event was a huge step forward for the program, raising more than $150,000 — which helped United Way increase the number of schools receiving Breakfast in the Classroom from 19 to now 65 schools and 37,000 children. A one-time investment of $4,000 will fund each school for this program. These funds are used for capital expenses and technical assistance to properly launch their Breakfast in the Classroom. Once the school is provided with infrastructure, federal funds help provide for the ongoing operations of the program. United Way is hoping to fund an additional 65 schools through the 2017 event.

Few have achieved such remarkable success in as many different fields as Davis: she is not only an Oscar and Golden Globe winning actor, but a world-class athlete (at one time the nation’s 13th-ranked archer), a member of the genius society Mensa, founder and chair of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The Geena Davis Institute engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters — and reduce gender stereotyping — in media made for children 11 and under.

Davis was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in information and communications technologies for the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union. She is also an official partner of UN Women, working toward their goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women worldwide, as well as, the chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women.

Davis recently launched the successful Bentonville Film Festival, an unprecedented initiative in support of women and diversity and serves as its co-founder and chair.

Breakfast, as the old adage goes, is the most important meal of the day. Children who eat school breakfast are more likely to, according to research, reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math, concentrate better, be more alert, retain more of what they learn and participate in class.

Programs like Breakfast in the Classroom also addresses a factor holding back participation in other before school breakfast programs. Many students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not participate because of the stigma of going to the cafeteria for breakfast before school. By offering breakfast to all students, in the classroom, the stigma of eating school breakfast is eliminated. Research shows that a Breakfast in the Classroom model is the single best way to increase participation and achieve the widespread gains in academic success linked to school breakfast consumption.

For more information on the event, including sponsorship and table sales, please contact Whitney Thistle at or 602.240.6335.


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