Petit in stature and vivacious in character, Dr.Pearl Grimes spoke with excitement and passion on the red carpet about the work she’s doing through her organization, The Coalition for At-Risk-Youth (CARRY), this past Saturday night at her annual Shall We Dance Gala which took place at The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Dr. Grimes, a UCLA dermatologist, set out in 2005 to boost the self-esteem of young people who are at-risk by providing skin care. Clearly dedicated, she works to affect positive change in the lives of foster youth suffering from skin disorders and physical illnesses. Her organization has even recently expanded to provide etiquette and style classes and is now poised to track the growth of the kids who engage in her programs since connecting with an inner-city school in LAUSD.
“We do an amazing social skills, etiquette class. And the kids love it. It’s a lot of fun. And, why do we do it?” Dr. Grimes asks. “We do it to build that level of confidence, so that the kids feel that they can go out into any social setting and feel totally comfortable.” She even teaches the kids how to respond to an invitation and write a thank you note after the occasion, something that many kids and adults alike could benefit from.
When I asked Dr. Grimes what initially inspired her to begin her foundation, she deferred to her blood line and upbringing, “Well, I come from a giving family,” she said. “I am going to talk about my father tonight. You should hear the story. And so I had to come to realize, ultimately it’s probably in my genes. But I had been toying with starting a foundation for many years. I just couldn’t decide on my population. And, in 2005 I just said, “What the heck. You know, you know you have to do it. You’ve been toying with this idea. You want to give back. And we, we just got started. And, you know our programs have changed annually somewhat, but the vision remains the same as it was from day one.”
I asked Dr. Grimes about the kinds of follow up they have done with the kids to show any subsequent academic growth. She responded enthusiastically, “Initially in working with foster group homes and homeless clinics we couldn’t follow a population long enough to be able to look at metrics to be able to monitor our success. But, now we have a great clinic at an after school program in inner city LA, so I now have an ability to follow these kids and query them at base-line and do the same quality of life assessment a year later. So I think we’re going to generate very strong data. I think we’re truly making a difference.”
What is so amazing about the Shall We Dance Gala that honored Tyler Perry, Dr. Jerome Porath, Laura B. Hunter and Janie Bradford, is that CARRY was not solely honoring people who have helped Dr. Grimes’ organization, but people who have affected positive change in our at-risk-youth in varied and powerful ways. Once an at-risk-youth himself while growing up in New Orleans, Tyler Perry, has risen to great Hollywood heights, but continuously gives tribute to those who have helped him along the way and tirelessly gives to many causes. Janie Bradford is a prolific Motown songwriter and founder of HEROES & LEGENDS, a non- profit organization providing performing arts scholarships to at-risk youth. Dr. Jerome R. Porath is the Founder, President and CEO of Value Schools. He has more than forty years experience in elementary and secondary school education, and spoke admiringly of Dr. Grimes’ work in the schools, saying, “She is doing absolutely exciting things and we are so grateful.” And, Laura Hunter, General Counsel for Obagi Medical Products, Inc, remains a staunch advocate and supporter of CARRY, dedicating her time and financial resources to advance the CARRY mission.
The red carpet was not only filled with celebrity glamor, but a feeling of reverence and intelligent dialogue about the need to help our kids and the work that the honorees and Dr. Pearl Grimes are doing. Thelma Houston, whose serves on CARRY’s board, radiated with her lime green sequined and feathered dress by Marcia Gomez’ Rio Collections. She stated, “When I first heard about it I thought it was a wonderful organization. Because sometimes people look at disfigurement or acne as not really a big deal. But, it really is. It can be really damaging to one’s self esteem. So, I love that part of what she is doing – that she realizes the importance of that. Once young people feel good about themselves on the inside then they are going to out and do well as citizens.” With so much excitement for the work of Dr. Grimes’ foundation and the evening itself, Ms. Houston was ready to give it her all on the stage for the second year in a row to entertain CARRY supporters with a special Motown medley.
Ellen Hollman brought her lovely and proud mom, Julie, who was in LA to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. Ellen has a special connection with CARRY because she too runs an organization that aims to help at-risk youth. Visual Impact Now works with LAUSD and “students who are severely in need of eye care,” Ellen stated. She was inspired to form VIN during the writer’s strike. Having dealt with eye issues herself she was “inspired during that lag to start something that didn’t involve myself and was for a better cause.”
Shall We Dance Gala provided an exciting evening of honoring the work of CARRY and the work of so many celebrities, educators and philanthropists who are passionately motivated by the opportunity to give back to society through our youth in pivotal ways. It was an evening of celebration of the good things good people are doing.