On May 10, the Muscular Dystrophy Association hosted its 22nd Annual “A Night Under the Stars Black and White Ball” at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, and the most prestigious award of the evening–The Humanitarian Award–was given to Brett Ellen, founder and president of American Financial Network, a firm in Calabasas, California, that offers financial planning and advisory services for both individuals and businesses.
Ellen was recognized for his philanthropic endeavors and dedication toward making a difference. “That was a very humbling experience for me,” Ellen recalls. “There were close to 500 people there that night.” At the MDA event, a thank you letter from kids at a care shelter in Tahiti (where Ellen visited a couple of months ago) was read aloud. “We founded a care center in Tahiti with 85 kids that had never met Americans before,” Ellen explains. “We brought them stuffed animals, taught them American football, and left them some Game Boys.” Ellen still tries to send a care package at least once a month for them with basketballs, baseballs, and necessities like shoes.
Ko’d by Kindness
In 2001, Ellen and his wife, Mandy, formed their own non-profit–Turn Kindness On (TKO) Helping Hands. The organization was inspired by their two sons, Keanu and Tristen, and fosters community involvement and social responsibility in young children by offering creative opportunities to help others in a global and intergenerational way. “TKO was started for a two-fold reason,” Ellen explains. “To do more for children, to give them hope in areas that I think are important, and to teach our kids how to empathize with what the world is really about.” The hands-on youth service and philanthropy program teaches children the value of volunteering, and has been involving children from five years old to adults to feed the homeless in the Los Angeles area. “We have been going out and feeding the homeless for seven years at least once a month,” he says. “And not a weekend goes by when we go feed the homeless where we haven’t brought another family or five or six other kids with us to share with them the experiences. It’s pretty unbelievable.”