Reporting the news about catastrophes and devastation started to leave a void in the heart of CNN anchor and journalist Soledad O’Brien. A compassionate O’Brien felt she could no longer disconnect, walk away and move on to the next news story. After reporting the news for 24 years and covering the stories of millions who found themselves orphaned, destitute, homeless, bereaved and without hope, she decided she needed to do more.
“I started seeing stories where I couldn’t affect the outcome. I covered the Asian tsunami, Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. I felt like my role, my power, my strength, is in bringing these stories to the public, but how do I change the outcome? How do I find homes for 400,000 children? I can’t,” she ticks off. “What I discovered is there were things I can do. My husband and I, after Hurricane Katrina, and with the help of Kim Bundy, who is my best friend, our children’s godmother and a member of our board, starting [finding] kids, young women especially, who really wanted to go to college and found because of lack of resources they couldn’t.
“One of the things that I have discovered is that one individual can make a tremendous difference. Someone can help someone else and take them across the finish line. I have seen it and we have done it in these 15 cases. You can really literally change people’s lives by first paying for them to go to school and supporting their efforts as they go through school and push them across the finish line … sometimes you drag, you push, you cheer.”
The Soledad O’Brien and Brad Raymond Family Foundation was founded by O’Brien and her husband, Brad Raymond, because education is something they place at the forefront of their philanthropic work. The foundation has funded the education of 15 students across the country.
Board chairman Herman Mayfield comments at a reception at the private residence of Joel and Kimberly Babbit in Atlanta’s posh Buckhead community. “Being the chairman of the board is like being the No. 1 volunteer. Living and being born and raised in New Orleans, there is no more a responsibility to be an example of assisting people. This partnership as well as rebuilding and repairing is what it’s all about. As a board, we ask ourselves, ‘what is the magic behind making someone a success, especially a young person who may need to have a gap –the distance between them and their opportunity – closed?’ We haven’t quite figured that out yet, but I do know that it is very hard to find people as dedicated as Soledad and Brad and the group of people who are on this board — they are working to find that solution and doing it one individual at a time. This board is a family and are taking the family approach. You can help us find this magic by attending our event in the Hamptons on Aug. 12, hosted by Dick Parsons and featuring Cicely Tyson and Pharrell; hosting a party; assist by sponsoring someone and giving a scholarship directly to an individual; or developing a great idea that we haven’t thought about.”
Well-heeled attendees at the private event included rapper-actor Ludacris, former ambassador Andrew Young, director Kenny Leon, fellow CNN anchor Don Lemon and many of Atlanta’s philanthropists and socialites. –yvette caslin