Honoree Denzel Washington

*Best-selling author and top radio personality Steve Harvey has always had a soft spot in his heart for young people – especially young men who go on to become productive fathers.

If you listen to his syndicated morning show, The Steve Harvey Show, you know that he’s steeped in giving guidance to young men who are without fathers in their lives, to help encourage their dreams and uncover their strengths to build the future they want.

Honoree Geoffrey Canada, Robin Roberts, Yvonne Grant, Marjorie Harvey, Steve Harvey, Pauletta Washington, Honoree Pam El, William Bey

In 2009 Harvey hosted 100 teenage boys and their guardians from around the country at his ranch in Dallas during Father’s Day weekend.  The mentoring weekend was a tremendous success and inspired the big-hearted comedian to expand his mission nationwide leading to the creation of 10 satellite mentoring programs in 2010 in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Tampa, Washington DC, Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Shreveport.

In order to sustain these grassroots efforts in which young men would achieve their dreams and therefore become better citizens and better men who are emotionally, politically and economically strong, Harvey launched the first annual Steve Harvey Foundation gala benefit to raise funds to finance ongoing Mentoring Weekends.

Antonio 'L.A.' Reid & Erica Holton Reid and Marjorie & Steve Harvey

On Monday, May 3, 2010, Harvey hosted the first annual Steve Harvey Foundation gala at New York City’s tony Cipriani Wall Street co-hosted by his friend Robin Roberts of Good Morning America to benefit the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men.

The unforgettable evening was attended by more than 500 dressed to the nines friends, family members and supporters and raised a whopping $1.3 Million dollars which is very impressive for an inaugural event.

In her warm welcoming greetings Elisha Silvera, executive director, The Steve Harvey Foundation, thanked the celestial crowd for their inspiring show of support.  “The Steve Harvey Foundation is proud to welcome you to its inaugural fundraising gala.  Our staff has worked tirelessly to bring you an evening we hope you will cherish, as we work to change the lives of our children, but most importantly our young men.  Although our young men are faced with social challenges, we truly believe with support and mentorship we will be influential in changing their lives and the lives of generations to come,” stated Silvera.

Butch Lewis, Rosalind R. Ray, Esq., Judge Greg Mathis, Rev. Al Sharpton

Harvey used the evening to put the spotlight on other great mentors – people who share his passion for helping and teaching others.  While counting mentoring among his biggest passions it was only natural that he would honor others who mirror his commitment to mentoring.

As a result Harvey — a gift that keeps giving — honored the tireless dedication and inspiring leadership of Academy Award-winning actor and director Denzel Washington, Harlem Children’s Zone president & CEO Geoffrey Canada, and State Farm Insurance Companies marketing vice president Pam El.

Sherri Shepherd & Common

While receiving his award, in a surprise move, Washington who is currently starring in August Wilson’s Fences on Broadway, stunned the audience when he announced that he and his wife Pauletta were donating $1 Million to the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend.  The audience went wild rendering the always loquacious Harvey at a lost for words and visibly shaken by the generous gift.

“I am stunned but at the same time I’m not because this gift exemplifies Denzel and Pauletta.  Giving comes real easy to them and although that’s surprising to a lot of people, it’s not surprising to us,” stated Harvey.  “Marjorie and I are so grateful and will use this money in the spirit it has been given – to change the lives of young men around the world.”

Toni Braxton performed

Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group, and Madeline Nelson-Small, executive director, Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FAWN), served as event co-chairs.  During the commemorative night of cherished memories multi-Grammy Award winning, Atlantic Records R&B song stylist Toni Braxton enthralled the audience with special musical selections.

The second annual Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men will take place in Dallas, June 17-20, 2010.  The 4-day, 3-night transformative experience will serve 100 teenage boys with empowering presentations and summertime activities that build their road to the future and provide the initiative to inspire the next generation of men with opportunities not found in any classroom.

Bringing together these teenage boys aged 13-18, between grades 8-11 from single-mother households across the country, will teach and share the principles of manhood and dream building with other life-affirming sessions.  Harvey will welcome special guests such as Dr. Steven Perry, Lee Haney, Stephen A. Smith and other leaders from the business and entertainment worlds.

Audrey J. Bernard

The motivating sessions include fitness and health, college, a Do It Yourself session, entrepreneurship, finance, style, manhood, dream building, and activities such as tennis, fishing, golf and paintball.  Serving 100 teenage boys in the first Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend last year, ten (10) of last year’s participants will return to Dallas this year to serve as junior counselors.

American Airlines is the official airline for the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend and Comfort Inn is the official hotel sponsor for the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend, with additional sponsorship support from State Farm Insurance Companies, The Home Depot, Ford Motor Company, Budget Rental Car, Kmart, Hillshire Farm, Outback Steakhouse, Sam’s Club, Glory Foods, Kentucky Fried Chicken, 21st Century Foundation, Choice Hotels, USTA, FBI, US Army, Soft Sheen Carson and Dell Computers.

Steve Harvey, honoree Denzel Washington

For information about the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men or to make a donation, please visit www.SteveHarveyFoundation.com. (Photos by Kyle J. Cassett, Gwendolyn Quinn, Ronnie Wright, Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.