Vanessa Bryant got emotional at a charity event on Saturday night with her daughters in the audience.
Baby2Baby — an LA-based charity that provides critical items like diapers and wipes to children in need across the U.S. — honored Bryant with the Giving Tree Award at the Baby2Baby 10 Year Gala Presented by Paul Mitchell in West Hollywood, California.
Bryant, who worked with Baby2Baby for years before husband Kobe Bryant's tragic death in Jan 2020, was introduced on Saturday night by her close friend, singer Ciara.
"As a mom of four beautiful girls, she's the ultimate role model," Ciara said. "And they are her driving force ... V, I am so proud of you. You deserve this honor. Not only because of who you are, but how you love, how you serve, and how you care for others."
When Bryant took the stage — to a standing ovation — in a sparkling pink dress with feather accents, she immediately was emotional.
"I have to start by saying how much I miss my perfect date tonight," she said, pausing to gather herself. "My husband Kobe loved attending Baby2Baby galas. With his big smile, he would look at me and say, 'Babe, this is freaking awesome. Tonight I'm your plus one, baby !'"
She added that her late husband — who died in a tragic helicopter crash in January 2020 alongside their 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people — always loved coming to the charity's annual event because he wasn't "obligated to do anything" besides attend.
"I get to be your date, help families and enjoy great food!" she recalled him telling her.
Every year, the nonprofit honors a mother in the public eye who advocates on behalf of kids in need with the Giving Tree award. The annual gala itself is is somewhat of a who’s who of Hollywood. This year, TODAY spotted several A-list celebrity guests in attendance like Adam Levine, Mandy Moore and Zooey Deschanel. It’s the kind of event where one can rub elbows with Jeff Bezos in the bathroom line, almost dump a plate of food on Jenna Dewan and watched James Corden dance to a surprise Ciara performance.
But for all the glitz and glamor — which, organizers were quick to point out, mostly was provided to them at little to no cost — actor Kerry Washington reminded attendees that there are still many other people struggling.
"It's unimaginable for many of us as we sit here in gowns and jewels, and as we dine and eventually dance and catch up with old friends, it seems impossible that someone here in this very same city could be lying awake in their car through the night faced with a debilitating decision of choosing between diapers or warm clothes for their child," Washington said. "But it is not impossible. This is our reality."
Washington encouraged people to donate to the non-profit, which saw a giant increase in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Let's make sure that every child and every parent — regardless of where they live, or what they look like or what community they were born into — that every one of us has the basic necessities that we need to live and to thrive," she said.