Coming Together for Children Alone 2011

Coming Together for Children Alone

2011 Pro Bono Service Awards

KIND Board Co-Chair and Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel  Brad Smith was recognized October 13 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Senior Counselor for Access to Justice Mark Childress as a White House “Champion of Change”  in a White House ceremony.

Honorees

Recap

The event featured 16 leaders from across the country who were recognized for their work in public interest law and providing legal services to people throughout the country who cannot afford them, helping to close the justice gap in the United States.

“It’s a privilege to be among so many remarkable individuals who – because of their commitment to progress, and to using their skills and talents to improve the lives of others – have been designated by President Obama as ‘Champions of Change,'” said Attorney General Holder.  “Across the country, their work is allowing us to address and overcome our most pressing legal challenges and live up to our nation’s highest ideals.”

KIND’s inaugural awards dinner gala was a tremendous success, with more than 200 guests representing 30 law firms and corporations supporting KIND’s work to ensure that no unaccompanied child faces the immigration system alone. Hosted by Emmy nominated host of “Top Chef” and author Padma Lakshmi, “Coming Together for Children Alone” honored General Electric, Paul Hastings, Troutman Sanders, and Weil, Gotshal and Manges for their demonstrated commitment and service to KIND’s clients.  Maria Hinojosa, host and managing editor of NPR’s Latino USA, and a correspondent for Frontline, was KIND’s special guest.

Brackett Denniston III, General Electric Senior Vice President and General Counsel, received KIND’s Innovation Award and delivered the keynote address, emphasizing the importance of pro bono at GE. He talked about GE attorney Richard Breunig: “He does an outstanding job every day as a compliance leader in our energy business,” Denniston said. “But I suspect that if you ask him about rewarding work he’s done, he’ll tell you about obtaining asylum for a 16-year-old disabled boy from Central America who was targeted by vicious Honduran gangs.”

KIND presented its Allegiance Awards to Seth Zachary, partner, Paul Hastings; Wally Christensen, partner, Troutman Sanders; and Charan Sandhu, partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges.  Each told moving and inspiring stories about how important and gratifying this work is to them and to their colleagues.

“Providing these legal services is critical, given that many children who come to the United States alone are desperate, having fled difficult or dangerous circumstances in search of safety and protection,” says KIND Executive Director Wendy Young. “Lawyers from GE, Paul Hastings, Troutman Sanders, and Weil, Gotshal have helped change the course of these children’s lives, in some cases literally saving them. We cannot thank them enough for their compassion and dedication.”

Lakshmi kept the event lively and shared her own story of immigrating from India to the United States as a young girl to be with her mother. Even knowing she had loving family waiting for her at the end of the trip, she recalled how frightening it was at such a young age. Maria Hinojosa talked passionately about the dire need for pro bono attorneys to represent refugee and immigrant children and about the difficult climate for immigrants in the United States today.

Several KIND clients attended the dinner, including 5-and 15-year-old sisters, represented by GE, who escaped persecution in Mali. Presenting the awards to Troutman Sanders and Paul Hastings, respectively, were their clients, a 17-year-old boy, and 13-year-old girl, both from Central America, who escaped dangerous situations in their home countries, including severe abuse and abandonment. Thanks to the combined efforts of the honorees and its other partners, KIND is working to help over 3,100 children already, a number that grows every day.

Brad Smith, General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation and KIND’s Board Co-chair, closed the event by thanking KIND’s many supporters and celebrating the honorees for their service to uniquely vulnerable children.