Annual Charity Event Raises Funds for Children Living in Poverty

With the help of an amazing group of sponsors, donors, and volunteers, Unity 4 Orphans hosted our annual Open Hearts Gala to raise money for children living in poverty. Now in its 6th year, this annual Open Hearts charity event benefiting Unity 4 Orphans drew nearly 150 supporters together for an important cause.

San Diego charity Unity 4 Orphans founder Joe Brandi at the 2023 Open Hearts Gala fundraiser for children in need

Annual Fundraiser Held by Top San Diego Charity

Guests donned silver and lavender, a nod to the spring season, and collectively raised a grand total of $125,000 for vulnerable children around the world. Many businesses and individuals rallied for the cause, with 23 sponsoring the event, 17 donating items for the silent auction, and countless others donating time, services, and goods to make the evening truly memorable.

Guests at San Diego Charity Unity 4 Orphans' annual Open Hearts Gala fundraiser for children in need

Event hosts Shannon and Ayham Skaf welcomed attendees to The Thursday Club in Point Loma on a spring Sunday afternoon, and volunteers began arriving hours earlier to set up. The ambiance was warm and inviting, focusing on the sweet faces of the children we serve.

“More than ever, we see the need to reach vulnerable children around the world, and we’re so thankful to the people who come alongside us to help. Your partnership makes all that we do possible.”
– Paul Polakowski III, U4O Board Chairman

San Diego Philanthropy Community Raises Funds For Vulnerable Children at Open Hearts Gala

This year’s Open Hearts Gala invited supporters both old and new to invest in brighter futures for marginalized children, while also serving as a benchmark for the progress we’ve made together since last year. Our ESL program in Ecuador is in full swing, and we also expanded our reach to help children in Punta Mita, Mexico, and at home in San Diego County.

Unity 4 Orphans Volunteers at Open Hearts Gala 2023 fundraiser for children in need

In Tijuana, we expanded our staff to create a dedicated in-country team that has already helped the children at the orphanages we serve with tutoring, counseling, and weekly support. Our well-established ESL program in Nicaragua continues to help impoverished children learn English, succeed in school, and grow up healthy and well-adjusted through regular counseling. We recently expanded our ESL program to Ecuador and continue to provide educational support to children in need in San Diego.

“I love to be part of U4O because we care about children’s lives, but also because we work together . . . we are building a family, and I love that because family is one of the things that they don’t know. We’re giving them the opportunity to feel what it’s like to be in a family.”
– Marco Aguilera, U4O Programs Director, Latin America

Unity 4 Orphans Began With One Person’s Inspiration to Help Children

When Joe Brandi founded U4O, he dreamed of stepping into the lives of vulnerable children to guide them to brighter futures through education and holistic care. His enthusiasm and heart for the kids continue to inspire many, and as our nonprofit grows year after year, we see the children in our programs thrive and grow as well.

Joe Brandi gives a speech at Unity 4 Orphans' annual Open Hearts Gala fundraiser for children in need

Joe’s vision, shared by many, continues to expand and this wouldn’t be possible without all of the people who have come alongside it. As awareness grows of how impoverished children live and the many hurdles they face in gaining access to education and breaking the cycle of poverty, our community grows as well.

“We serve children in Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua and San Diego. We are believers. We have a vision for these kids’ futures and what can be. Together, and because of events like this, we will make it happen”
– Joe Brandi, U4O Founder

The Unity 4 Orphans family was full of gratitude for such a beautiful showing of support for the children we serve. We know this memorable event will continue to inspire all who attended with a desire to change the world, one vulnerable child at a time.

Click here to view the video gallery from the event.

Click here to view Part One of our photo gallery from the event.

Click here to view Part Two of our photo gallery from the event.

We are incredibly grateful to our Event Sponsors:
Dr. Ayham & Shannon Skaf, American Eye Associates
Leo Hamel, Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers
Zach Meyer, Forum Education Corporation
Michael Cook, CrossCountry Mortgage
Chris Fromm
Casey LeBlanc, New Venture Escrow
Travis Ledford, Redline European
Nicol Medina, Coldwell Banker West
Anu Naidu
Dr. Alex Roher, SDBotox
Rod Skaf, Skafco Financial
Jamie Smolin
Dr. Shawn Vedamani, SDBody

Libations provided by Bar Hosts:
Will & Jeni Perri, Jacobsen Perri Cellars
Jill Schultz, Dine N Vine
Shiva Mortazavi, Melograno Craft Cocktails

Special thanks to our Service providers:
Music: Matt Dresser, DJ Hotkeys
Videography: Paul Giret, Film for Food
Videography: Alvaro Kross, Infinite Evocation
360 Photobooth: Casey Cantwell, San Diego 360 Video Booth
Photography: John Swee, Dodge Creative
Photography: Noah Wardrip, Photography
Catering: 4 Seasons Catering

Celebrating our Silent Auction Donors:

Veronica Aranda, Art Connects HeArts
William Orland, Bill’s Aircraft Service, Inc.
Crystal Garcia & Ethan Johnson, California Ventures
Tanner Gardner
Tom Grunow, Grunow Construction
Sarah Wheeler, Honey Bead’s Jewelry
Jay & May Hoehn, Jay & May Complete Health
Olivia Karmarz
Leo Hamel, Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers
Israel Adato, Ojo Azul Resort
Molly Phillips
Rachel Moriarty, Rachel Moriarty Interiors
Ryan Ramirez
Sarah Zmay, Sarah Zmay Fitness & Yoga
Dr. Alex Roher, SDBotox and Center for Health and Wellbeing
Steve DeCecco, Steve DeCecco Builders
Alvaro Kross, Infinite Evocation

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