Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner and More Celebrate at the 23rd Annual Beat the Odds Awards

CDF Gala
Photo: Sara De Boer/startraksphoto.com

Some of Hollywood's finest gathered last night to celebrate five deserving students at the Children's Defense Fund-Calfiornia 23rd Annual Beat the Odds Awards. The Children's Defense Fund-California is a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF-CA helps lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect, and ensure their access to healthcare and quality education.

Five Los Angeles-area high school "stars" were honored by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, and Matt Damon for beating the odds, and overcoming tremendous personal obstacles in order to achieve academic excellence. Other attendees included Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Josiah Bell, Conan O'Brien, J.J. Abrams, and Katie Lowes. Witherspoon, who serves on the CDF-CA's National Board, spoke highly of the work the charity performs. "What I really love about this organization is that it is truly all about the kids," the actress stated. "I am so proud to be a part of the organization." This sentiment was echoed throughout the evening, in more ways than one. Each winning student was honored individually, and gift bags were forgone in favor of creating five gigantic gift bags for the honorees. "These kids are going to be really excited when they open them later this evening!" Witherspoon said.

As the emotional and inspiring evening came to a close, CDF President Marian Wright Edelman recognized the many accomplishments of the organization, but asserted that there is still much further to go. "Building on the leadership of young people and those that are here tonight, we can force our nation to make new choices and to really make large strides forward. We must not move backwards. We’ve got to turn this around. We’ve got to change it and we will change it," Wright Edelman concluded.

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Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner

CDF Gala
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund-California

honored high school students who have beat the odds. "What I really love about this organization is that it is truly all about the kids," Reese Witherspoon stated. "I am so proud to be a part of the organization."

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Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso

CDF Gala
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund-California

attended the event together and celebrated with friends.

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Josiah Bell and Jurnee Smollett-Bell

CDF Gala
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund-California

helped host the evening's festivities. "CDF works everyday across this country and in our nation’s capital to serve children," Jurnee Smollett-Bell said. "We have a number of these schools actually here in Los Angeles and I encourage all of you to get involved."

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Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams

CDF Gala
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund-California

have supported the organization for many years because of the fact that it focuses so much on helping children who face tremendous odds.

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Katie Lowes

CDF Gala
Sara De Boer/startraksphoto.com

attended the awards, which gave each honoree a $10,000 college scholarship and support services including: private tutoring, one-on-one college counseling, ongoing mentoring, internship placements, life skills development, SAT prep, and week-long college tours at no cost.

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