This past weekend, friends gathered and bars of “Happy Birthday” were sung by many, including actor Kevin Sorbo and Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort where celebrity guests gathered for a special event — Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday celebration and Celebrity Fight Night XVIII.
“This is a great place and great organization,” said actress Melissa Peterman. “There’s a powerhouse of people, and they’re here because of Muhammad and the cause — they love what this cause does.”
Celebrity Fight Night, held on Saturday, March 24, featured live auctions and entertainment to help raise donations for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, along with many notable, smaller charities. One generous donation was made by Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy.com, of $1 million.
The live auction featured items such as dinner at Reba McEntire’s Beverly Hills, Calif. home, which included special guests Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson; this went for $1.8 million — three bidders paid $600,000 each for a chance to dine with the superstars. Another item that sold for $1.4 million was a vacation in Tuscany and dinner with Andrea Bocelli. Celebrity Fight Night XVIII raised a total of $9.1 million; the event has raised nearly $80 million dollars in 18 years.
“At this event, good people are doing great things,” said Sorbo. “I’m thrilled to be here, and I will keep coming back.”
Miley Cyrus, Lionel Richie, Rascal Flatts, Rita Wilson, John Corbett, Sinbad and Jackie Evancho all performed under the direction of David Foster. And Mauro Castano of the popular TLC television show “Cake Boss” provided the birthday cake.
While some of the guests have been attending for years on end — including Bo Derek, who said this was her 12th year attending Celebrity Fight Night; and Frankie Muniz, who said this was his fourth year — this was also a year of firsts for a few guests, including Castano and Hanks and Wilson, who made surprise appearances that night.
“I really had no idea how great this would be,” said actress and model Bo Derek. “Thinking I had been to so many of these events in big cities, this one blew me away. I think the support from the community and the love, heart and soul — it’s really unique.”
But everyone made it clear on the red carpet that night the importance of the Celebrity Fight Night Foundation and giving back, especially to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. For Nancy Lieberman, former professional basketball player, she emphasized the importance of the research that will go into finding the cure for Parkinson’s. Hanks said it has always been about awareness and commitment and being able to contribute and help out in any way one can.
“There’s no reason not to be here,” said Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder. He added that, in the future, he hopes for the foundation to be “more prolific and better than ever” as well as for it to grow to more cities.
View photos from the Celebrity Fight Night XVIII red carpet:
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