Broadway Benefit Concert Celebrates Hope for Foster Youth

The Al Hirschfeld Theatre stage lit up last Monday night with celebrities and guests gathering to support New York City’s foster children at the 2nd-annual Voices for the Voiceless: Stars for Foster Kids benefit concert. Television and Broadway stars took the stage, raising funds and awareness for the foster youth organization You Gotta Believe.

The event was presented by Broadway producer Seth Rudetsky and his husband James Wesley, with sponsorship provided by Beachbody.com and Celebrity Cruises.

James Wesley, Rosie Perez and Seth Rudetsky at You Gotta Believe's Voices for the Voiceless Broadway event on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo: Genevieve Rafter Keddy
James Wesley, Rosie Perez and Seth Rudetsky at You Gotta Believe’s Voices for the Voiceless Broadway event on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo: Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Two-time Tony Award-winning actress Chita Rivera opened the show with the classic number “All That Jazz” from the Broadway musical Chicago.

The concert included performances by Darren Criss, Gloria Gaynor, Megan Hilty, Sherri Saum, Marc Shaiman, Stephanie Mills, Alec Mapa and Tony Yazbeck, among others.

Other participants included Rosie Perez, Rachel Crow, Janice Huff, Caroline Rhea, Alice Ripley, BD Wong, Charles Busch, Liz Callaway, Ann Hampton Callaway, Orfeh, Adrienne Warren, Anika Larsen, Keala Settle, Richard Kind, , Roz Ryan, Michelle Collins, Lisa Mordente, Liz Larsen, Josh Colley, Lilla Crawford, Christine Pedi, Janet Metz, Olga Merediz and Carole Demas.

First-hand accounts of life in the child welfare system were presented by young people affiliated with You Gotta Believe. Many of the youth presented alongside people who played integral roles in their life, often introducing their new adoptive parent or sibling. Justice Henry shared his story and how he was recently adopted by two lesbian parents days before his twenty-first birthday.

Celebrities also shared their stories. NFL wide receiver and Wilhelmina model Dale Moss spoke to the crowd about his early life in the child welfare system, and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness to aid his three sisters also in foster care.

Actress Rosie Perez expressed her support for You Gotta Believe by candidly sharing the painful details of her challenging childhood.

“I was a foster kid myself,” Perez said “I was a ward of New York State first. I know what it’s like to be in the system where people don’t want to take care of older kids. So, that’s why You Gotta Believe is so important to me. I know what those kids are going through.”

“It was incredible to hear Rosie Perez open up like that,” said Susan Grundberg, executive director and CEO of You Gotta Believe.

The event represented the effort of celebrities, practitioners, business leaders and policymakers coming together to not only support an issue plaguing thousands of the nation’s children, but to generate a larger conversation about the state of child welfare in the U.S.

“We need all foster youth organizations to come together and work together. We’re all working towards the same goal, for the kids,” said Danielle Gletow, founder and executive director of One Simple Wish, a nonprofit that grants wishes for foster children.

The cast of Disaster at You Gotta Believe's Voices for the Voiceless Broadway event on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo: Genevieve Rafter Keddy
The cast of Disaster at You Gotta Believe’s Voices for the Voiceless Broadway event on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo: Genevieve Rafter Keddy

The night ended with all presenters and performers gathered onstage to sing a powerful rendition of “What the World Needs Now is Love.”

All proceeds from the show will go towards You Gotta Believe. You Gotta Believe is New York City’s only non-profit dedicated to connecting older youth in foster care with permanent families. You Gotta Believe’s main platform, Nobody Ages Out, aims to ensure that every young person in foster care will have a family before they reach the age, typically 18 or 21 depending on state laws, when they “age out” of care and are left without a support system.

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Devon Ziminski
About Devon Ziminski 23 Articles
Devon is a Journalism for Social Change Fellow. She writes about gun violence, mental health, adoption policy and practice, and education.

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