The Help Group’s Teddy Bear Ball Honors Erin Underhill, President of Universal Television

– 22nd Annual Gala is Generously Underwritten by Presenting Sponsor, The Zenith –



On April 19th, The Help Group hosted its 22nd Annual Teddy Bear Ball at the Beverly Hilton Hotel International Ballroom to benefit children with autism and other special needs. On this truly festive evening, The Help Group was pleased to present its Help Humanitarian Award to Erin Underhill, President of Universal Television.

Gala Chairs for the event included Jenna Bans, Executive Producer ‘Good Girls’, Kevin Beggs, Chairman, Lionsgate Television, Channing Dungey, Chair of Warner Bros.Television Group, Mike Hopkins, Senior Vice President, Prime Video and Amazon Studios, Pearlena Igbokwe, Chairman, Universal Television Group, David Stapf, President, CBS Television Studios and Steve Stark, Chairman & Executive Producer for Toluca Pictures.

Gala Co-Chairs included Help Group Circle of Friends Board Members, Ann & Dick Costello, Jamie & Chris McGurk, David Salzman and Ken Solomon.

Mayan Lopez, the talented co-creator, writer, producer and star of the NBC sitcom, ‘Lopez vs Lopez’ emceed the event and entertained over 400 guests throughout the evening.

Louis Price, former lead singer of the Temptations, and The Help Group Children’s Choir kicked off the evening with a moving rendition of the classic tune, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. The evening also featured a special musical performance by Jade Novah singing a medley of her recent songs, including, I Just Wanna KnowButterfly and All Blue.

Dr. Barbara Firestone, Help Group President & CEO, and Gary H. Carmona, Help Group Board Chair, welcomed and thanked guests for their generosity, support and friendship and expressed delight in the return of The Teddy Bear Ball after a three-year hiatus. Dr. Firestone acknowledged and expressed appreciation to The Zenith, Underwriting Sponsor of this year’s event, under the leadership of President & CEO, Kari Van Gundy, and Senior Vice President, Greg Holly.


In a special video message, Los Angeles Mayor, Karen Bass, applauded the “incredible work” of The Help Group and congratulated Erin Underhill for her “well deserved honor”, concluding, “Together we can create more opportunities for all of our young people, including those with special needs.”

To cap off a fantastic first act, Mayan gave a heartwarming introduction to Help Group parent Deanna and her son Manny, sharing a brief video of their family’s journey and Manny’s many achievements at The Help Group.

Dr. Susan Berman, Help Group Executive Director, and Dick Costello, Help Group Circle of Friends Board Member and Gala Co-Chair, presented the Dr. Adam Opportunity Fund to the guests. During the height of the COVID pandemic, The Help Group utilized Dr. Adam Funds to provide laptops and internet access for virtual learning and therapy, extensive mental health supports, food assistance and other essentials that were out of reach for so many of our families.

Alyse, a recipient of the Dr. Adam Opportunity Fund, spoke openly about her story of perseverance and hope, and how much her school, and the fund has meant to her. Joined that evening by her great grandmother, Ida who fostered her at the young age of two months, Ida shared, “I am super proud of her and everything she has accomplished and how far she’s come on her own and with the help of The Help Group.”

Mario Lopez, host of TV’s “Access Hollywood” and iHeart Radio‘s nationally syndicated show “On with Mario,” led the Opportunity Fund auction of bears. Some of this year’s teddy bears were signed by celebrities from shows including, Law & Order, One Chicago, Bel-Air and many more.

Steve Stark, former Help Humanitarian Award honoree and Circle of Friends Board Member introduced the evening’s honoree retrospective and welcomed Erin Underhill to the family of Help Group honorees.

Circle of Friends Board Members, Gala Co-Chairs and former Help Humanitarian Award honorees, Jamie and Chris McGurk, each spoke about their personal commitment to supporting the children before introducing a special tribute performance for Erin by Louis Price and The Help Group Choir.

Pearlena Igbokwe, one of the evening’s Gala Chairs, introduced her colleague and friend, Erin Underhill – underscoring Erin’s significant contributions and her can-do spirit that has been at the center of her successes personally and professionally. Pearlena shared a beautifully produced video in salute to Erin and welcomed Erin to the stage.

Dr. Firestone and Gary H. Carmona presented Erin with the Help Humanitarian Award. “Your kindness and loving spirit mean so much to so many,” shared Dr. Firestone. “We are honored to salute your efforts with the 2023 Help Humanitarian Award.” Gary, announcing the inscription of the award, remarked, “In celebration of your humanitarian spirit ~ your commitment to caring is brightening the lives of many children.”

In her incredibly warm acceptance speech, Erin shared touching stories and talked in notable detail about the children she became acquainted with during her visits to The Help Group – Raymond, Alex, Dylan Ryan, Leo, Lukas, Sasha, Lui, Jett, Hunter and Rodney – what their school has meant to them and their aspirations for the future.

Erin remarked to the audience, “I want to express my sincere gratitude to The Help Group for this honor. It is humbling to be recognized by such an inspirational organization. There is no doubt it takes a village, and this is one phenomenal village I’m honored to be a part of. Thank you!”

The Help Group is so grateful to our remarkable honoree, Erin Underhill, and to everyone who joined us for this time-honored celebration of the beauty and potential of the children.