Beverly Hills was buzzing with excitement as Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Andrew Garfield and Gene Simmons hosted a poker tournament at Citizen—a new eatery located next door to celeb hotspot Spago. The A-listers along with the World Poker Tournament (WTP), threw the event to raise money for Mending Kids International—an organization that provides life-saving surgical care to children worldwide.
CEO of the World Poker Tournament Adam Pliska explained their involvement.
“We were approached by Mending Kids and the WTP supports a handful of charities that really makes a positive difference. Over time we’ve raised about $6 million dollars and brought a lot of awareness to charities that really contribute the lives of young people. Mending Kids is ideal because you can’t find a charitable organization with more impact. They are going into villages in places where the idea of having a life-changing surgery was a dream. They’re so inspiring and we’re honored to be here.”
As fans gathered around the restaurant trying to catch a glimpse or photo of the Hollywood stars, the Braveheart actor/director and Kiss frontman talked to The Voluntourist about their ties with the charity and why it’s so important to them.
“I’ve been involved with Mending Kids for a long time. I met some kids a long time ago who needed help. We helped them and the organization formed around that. We have teams of doctors going into third world countries where they can’t afford surgeries and we began to bankroll some of that stuff,” Gibson said.
He added, “I think they’ve done such good. The most amazing thing about this organization in particular is .95 cents on every dollar goes to the kids and goes to life-saving operations. We’re in 63 countries around the world including the United States. We go where we’re needed. The more contributions we get the more good work we can do. There’s an ocean of need and I think it’s an important charity. It really does a lot of good. We’re all prepared to lose at poker tonight so they can win.”
For Simmons, he has a deeply personal reason why he gives back, which he shared with The Voluntourist.
“I came to America when I was 8-years-old. I am my mother’s only child. My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany when she was 14-years-old and it’s through my mother’s eyes that I learned from the grace of God I could have been in a concentration camp. Or I could have been born some place without an arm or a leg. People are lucky to be born in America where you have plenty to eat and all you have to complain about is traffic. There are children around the world who have lots to complain about and we’re here to lesson their pain.”
The rock star continued, “When children are hungry you can almost fix that by sending money. If they need a new t-shirt or something you can send t-shirts. But what happens when they’re born with a disease or physical problem. So what Mending Kids does is send doctors for free around the world to provide free operations where they live. They also teach local doctors how to do the operations. If it wasn’t for Mending Kids, you’d have many more kids dying. You’ll never end the suffering, but this is the least we can do.”
But this isn’t the first time Simmons has helped children globally.
“Before this I paid for an entire mission for the Starkey Foundation to provide hearing aids for 4,000 children in China and Mongolia. Many of the children had never heard their mother saying I love you.”
For more information on Mending Kids you can check out www.mendingkids.org