Wow, what an amazing night last night.  We held our 11th annual Asian-American LEAD fund-raising dinner at the China Garden in Rosslyn.  The event was a smashing success – we had over 400 guests in attendance and set a record in terms of fund-raising.

As a board member and co-chair of the development committee, this is an important day for our organization.  We need to keep raising funds in this tough economic environment in order to stay afloat and to keep delivering our much-needed services to our students, most of whom come from low-income Asian families in Washington, DC.

The student performances are always a highlight.  Once again, the children – from elementary to high school – delivered a number of terrific performances.  I was also riveted by the moving speeches from two students … both who moved to the US in the past few years.  Their families moved them here to provide them an opportunity to receive a better education.  It must be extremely difficult to come to the US when one doesn’t know the English language nor the customs and traditions.  Yet, these two outstanding students made the move … and they both thanked AA LEAD for helping them get acclimated to the community and to their respective schools.

The other highlights included our keynote speaker, Yul Kwon.   Yul is a good friend of mine who is most known for being the Korean-American that won “Survivor” a few years ago.  He’s also a highly educated and respected business executive.  Yul moved to DC last fall and is now serving as Deputy Commissioner for the FCC.  He delivered a fantastic speech about his perspective of growing up as an Asian-American in the US.  He also stressed the importance of education as well as the importance of organizations such as AA LEAD to help the children achieve their dreams.  We are truly grateful to Yul for addressing the AA LEAD family at last night’s dinner.

The other highlight for me was having the distinct honor of introducing one of my mentors, Mario Morino.  We awarded Mario with the AA LEAD’s first ever Washington, DC LEADer award.  There is no one more deserving.  Mario is the Godfather of Philanthropy for the greater Washington DC region.  He is clearly one of the great Washingtonians of the past 3 decades.  His Venture Philanthropy Partners organizations has helped over 10 of the leading non-profits in the DC positively impact tens of thousand of children.

In delivering the introduction, instead of reading Mario’s impressive bio, I told a real-life story.  I brought my 10-year old mentee, Sally, to the stage with me.  I told the audience  how Mario became one of my primary mentors over 10 years ago.   He asked me to help him meet young up and coming business executives who might become donors to the VPP family.  Four of us have joined the VPP family in the past few years.  Because of VPP, I learned about AA LEAD.  And, because of AA LEAD, I’ve gotten to become part of a terrific organization – and I’ve also become mentors  to 10-year old Sally and her 14-year old brother, Da-Zhi.  I’ve blogged in the past about how I’ve promised to their mother that I will ensure that both of her children attend college (through my personal contributions as well as help with scholarships and grants).  The summary to my intro was that because of Mario Morino, there’s a VPP; because of VPP, organizations like AA LEAD are thriving; because of AA LEAD, I’ve become mentors to two wonderful mentee / students – who are going to go to college and achieve their dreams.  So, it was wonderful for me to introduce my mentor, Mario, to my mentee, Sally, on the stage last night.  Yes, I nearly broke down but I managed to not do so.  But, the smile from last night hasn’t left my face yet.  Last night was a dream come true.

Thank you to AA LEAD staff, students, board members, volunteers and to the many wonderful friends that supported our organization last night.