Coming Together for Children Alone - In Person - after Three Years

October 19, 2022

On Monday, October 17th, KIND and over 400 of its partners, donors, and supporters gathered at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to celebrate our annual gala, Coming Together for Children Alone.

This was KIND’s first in person gala since 2019, and all the evening’s speakers acknowledged how special it was to be together once again. The opening reception featured the inauguration of an art installation of drawings, paintings, and prints by KIND clients. The collection, titled “Seeking Safety, Creating Change,” provides insight into these children’s migration journeys and will become a national traveling exhibition to educate viewers about children who travel alone to seek safety.

Following an opening performance by 19-year-old violinist Elli Choi and the American Pops Orchestra, a short film featured the stories of three KIND clients and their journey to safety. In her welcome address, KIND President Wendy Young highlighted how despite the global pandemic, which brought the world to a standstill but did not stop child migration, KIND’s work never ceased, and has only grown since 2020: “Our staff and partners—many of you with us this evening—continued to lean in and fiercely advocate for unaccompanied and separated children who needed our help more than ever before. Our staff grew to 400-plus strong, working across the United States and beyond in our now 19 offices—from Seattle to El Paso to Orlando to DC to New York to Boston to Juarez and Tijuana.” Reviewing the successes KIND has had over the past two years helping unaccompanied children, Young ended on a note of hope before introducing Broadway star and Emmy, Grammy, and Tony award nominated actor Norm Lewis who was the host for the evening.

KIND co-founder and Board Chair Brad Smith presented KIND’s Allegiance award to three law firms which have demonstrated outstanding pro bono commitment to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children: Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. KIND honored Merck with its Innovation Award.

Storytelling was the theme of the night. “I love a good story,” Lewis said, “stories that inspire and change, and characters that remind us of what’s possible…In many ways, KIND’s story embodies all those things.” So do the stories of KIND’s child clients. While their immigration stories are often difficult and traumatic, these children—through their resilience and the help of KIND’s incredible pro bono network of attorneys—create new stories for themselves and their lives that inspire change.

Building on that theme, the highlight of the evening was Brad Smith’s conversation with author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and KIND Board Member Sonia Nazario, and author, poet, and former unaccompanied child Javier Zamora. Nazario is the author of Enrique’s Journey (2005), a story about a Honduran boy looking for his mother eleven years after she migrates to the United States. Zamora’s memoir Solito, about his journey from El Salvador to the United States when he was nine years old, was published in September 2022, and debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. Nazario and Zamora shared their reflections on writing and why telling stories is so critical. “My book helps people stand in the shoes of a migrant and understand why they left their country,” Nazario stated. Zamora said that part of what he learned through the process of writing Solito was that his story matters: “There’s so many people like me, from Central America, who made that journey. We’re out there, taking up space.”

Following dinner, attorney and immigration thought leader Esther Olavarria presented the Juan P. Osuna Memorial Award, which honors Juan’s legacy as an unwavering champion of fundamental fairness for immigrants throughout his nearly 20-year career of increasing responsibility at the Department of Justice. KIND paralegal Enrique Chavira Cantú won the award for his extraordinary efforts helping unaccompanied children at emergency intakes sites on the border and dedication to KIND’s mission.

In her closing remarks, President Wendy Young thanked everyone for coming and recognized the generous contributions of those present. “Everyone in this room is a storyteller and an advocate,” she said. “We have ambitious plans … We won’t stop until every unaccompanied child is safe and every separated family is reunited. We will continue to go wherever children are alone and need us, but we simply cannot succeed without the contributions of our pro bono and philanthropic partners.  It will take all of us – working together – to write KIND’s next chapter, and I would like to personally invite you to help us lift the pen.”

The night concluded with a moving musical performance by Norm Lewis and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, followed by a desert reception. KIND is grateful to all those who attended our gala to support our work and continue to raise awareness about immigrant and refugee children.

Watch: 2022 Gala Honorees