Jonathan Wheelhouse
Jeff Bridges & The Abiders provided the evening’s entertainment for the American Indian College Fund Gala 25th anniversary celebration held in Los Angeles.

LA College Fund Gala: Native Students, Jeff Bridges, and Autographed Swag

Jonathan Wheelhouse

The American Indian College Fund held the second of three formal galas in Los Angeles, California on April 11, 2015 to continue the celebration of its 25-year anniversary, and raise funds to benefit Native American education. More than 200 supporters attended the event.

The Denver-based College Fund provides scholarships to Native American high school graduates as well as support for 34 accredited tribal colleges.

In a pamphlet passed out to guests at the event, the College Fund stated that they have given out over 100,000 scholarships in the past 25 years. They also revealed an ambitious goal to raise enough funding to award 100,000 more scholarships to Native American students by the year 2020.

The night kicked off with a silent auction and open bar for guests. High-end items were up for auction including a Kawasaki Ninja Sportbike signed by Johnny Depp and the entire cast of the 2013 movie “The Loan Ranger,” a Fender electric guitar signed by all four band members of The Rolling Stones, and an acoustic guitar signed by a collection of female artists including Taylor Swift. Other items available up for auction included a selection of tribal arts and jewelry, paintings, photography and a signed Denver Broncos football jersey from quarterback Peyton Manning.

For the dining portion of the event Rudy Ortega and fellow musicians performed tribal music as guests made their way to their seats. Christina Cadena, a representative from The Walt Disney Company, pledged her companies’ commitment to the College Fund alongside a surprise appearance from actors dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

The Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening was Ellen Leyva, co-anchor for ABC7 Eyewitness news. Leyva took the stage and introduced the organization’s president and CEO, Cheryl Crazy Bull.

Crazy Bull honored the founders of the College Fund with specially commissioned 25th anniversary tribal blankets designed by renowned artist Diyani White Hawk.

“Among all tribes we’ve had a very strong tradition of gifting,” said Crazy Bull as she prepared to honor the founders, “and gifting is really based in being able to recognize when others have done something that has great meaning to us. Over the many, many years of gifting, blankets have become a very important and significant part of our work.”

Founders David Gipp, Gail Bruce, Anne Sward Hansen, Lowell Amiotte, Lionel Bordeaux, Dave Archambault, Phyllis Howard, Joe McDonald and Carty Monette were all honored with blankets. Crazy Bull said she was proud to have worked with them throughout her career.

Sponsors and attendees for the event included The Walt Disney Company and ABC Family, Toyota Motor Sales USA, The Ford Foundation, Wieden + Kennedy, the Walton Family Foundation, AT&T and Comcast/NBC Universal.

The final speaker of the evening was Navajo scholarship recipient and student at Diné College, Dallas Peterman. Peterman gave the crowd an emotional thank you for the support he has received from the College Fund and reminded supporters that there are thousands of other kids out there like him who need help in order to obtain a college education.

The headlining musical act for the event was Jeff Bridges and the Abiders. Front man and movie actor Jeff Bridges greeted the crowd by thanking them for supporting “one of the most underserved communities in the country.”

In a phone interview after the event, Crazy Bull said the gala events are a good opportunity to get more engaged with individual donors and include them in a larger goal to educate the broader community about Native American issues. She promotes more engagement and outreach both inside and outside Native American communities.

The third and final gala will take place in Chicago on May 8, 2015 at the Drake Hotel. This event will also include a silent auction for attendees and have a live performance by Jim Belushi and The Sacred Hearts. Individual tickets start at $350 per person and all proceeds will benefit the American Indian College Fund.

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