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Thunder! Lightening! Light! Camera! Action!

Despite unforgiving weather, with torrential rains and a flood warning in Malibu and surrounding areas, Yo San University’s staff and volunteers plowed forth on March 25th to put on another memorable Robert Graham Visionary Award Celebration. 

Despite unforgiving weather, with torrential rains and a flood warning in Malibu and surrounding areas, Yo San University’s staff and volunteers plowed forth on March 25th to put on another memorable Robert Graham Visionary Award Celebration. Held at the stunning, dramatic beachfront home of philanthropist Lilly Tartikoff, the inclement weather did not dampen the excitement and festivities of all those awaiting the arrival of this year’s special honoree – famed actor Robert Downey, Jr. Known mostly for bringing Tony Stark/Iron-Man and Sherlock Holmes to life, Robert boasts a mile long list of credits including Oscar-nominated roles in Tropic Thunder and Chaplin and an Emmy-nominated role in Ally McBeal. His amazing talent and commitment to all his characters has landed him on thousands of magazines and entertainment news shows. Yet few know about Robert Downey, Jr.’s personal commitment to Asian medicine and wellness.

Robert’s passion for Eastern philosophy and medicine manifests in his daily practice of martial arts and meditation. Having worked with Dr. Mao for several years, Robert credits Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for his wife’s and his overall health and wellness. Through the Robert Graham Visionary Award, Robert made a spectacular effort to raise awareness among his colleagues about the benefits of TCM, with hopes to help bring unprecedented support for Yo San University’s free and low-cost community outreach programs.
Upon arrival, in very Tony Stark fashion, Robert immediately hammed it up for all of Yo San University’s major supporters, graciously taking photos and conversing with fans. As he worked his way through the crowd of almost 200 YSU supporters, guests could be found joyfully chatting , tasting the many delicacies presenting fresh from the kitchen and drinking near the Ultimat Vodka sponsored bar.  Lilly Tartikoff’s home provided the ultimate relaxed and inviting environment for everyone to meet, to make new friends and most important, to honor the special man of the hour.

YSU President, Dr.  Larry Ryan, began the evening’s program by introducing the emcee, actress Brenda Strong. Brenda has been a powerful supporter of YSU for several years. Having emceed the last two annual events, she was a pro at hosting and bringing humor and excitement at just the right moments. Dr. Daoshing Ni spoke first, thanking all those who came and contributed to the evening.  Dr. Mao Shing Ni then stepped up to introduce the awardee. Knowing the star power of Robert, Dr. Mao jokingly sped through the actor’s filmography and focused on his philanthropic efforts instead, which included working with such organizations as Clothes Off Our Back, Orca Network, and Midnight Mission, before presenting the award.

Robert graciously accepted the award, joking that no one was more Chinese, visionary or deserving of such an award as he.  Before concluding, he asked everyone to give as generously as they could to YSU. With that endorsement, Brenda Strong prepped the audience for YSU’s most exciting auction to date.  Thanks to the amazing contributions of Warner Bros., the event’s premiere sponsor, and Marvel, YSU was able to obtain an original Tony Stark racing suit and helmet worn by Robert in Iron Man 2, and the Sherlock Holmes pipe and auction paddle used in the recent Sherlock Holmes sequel Game of Shadows. Other auction items included a precious sculpture titled “L’Enfant” by Danielle Anjou, an exquisite Bell and Ross timepiece donated by Westime, and a special on-set tour of Brenda Strong’s new television series Dallas, including a private lunch with the actress herself.

With the amazing talent of Brenda, the live auction generated exciting bids.  At one point, Robert Downey Jr. was competing with one of our major donors, Edith Dume for the L’Enfant sculpture. At $12,000, Ms. Dume won the auction -- only to magnanimously gift it to Robert! It was the most unexpected and heartfelt moment of the evening.
 Before the official program concluded and desserts were enjoyed, two lucky donors received a special gift for their additional donations into the “opportunity drawing,” courtesy of YAS Fitness, Bloomingdales, Rock Sugar, and Matthew Williamson Designs. As the sun slowly set in the Pacific Ocean, our guests began to depart . Everyone said their goodbyes with a smile, sharing endless compliments for a fantastic event. This brilliant event would not have been possible without support from our wonderful student volunteers: Adam Cappuccino, Ellen Davis, Chloe Hadji Elias, Ally Glickman, Steve Han, Emily King, Cinthia Martel, Venesza Lenibeck, Tobe Stacey and Phillip Ward.
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