Rallying ‘Round Eva

Imagine this: it’s a sunny morning in Miami. Nestled in the driver’s seat of a Ferrari F430 Spider, you are cruising across the MacArthur Causeway with majestic ships on your right and waterfront manses on your left. In the passenger seat is none other than mega-watt star Eva Longoria Parker, laughing as her brown locks blow wildly in the wind. She’s your navigator, pointing you in the right direction as you scour the city for your next adventure.

Sound like a dream? For a minimum donation of $25k, it could be your reality very soon. On November 21, the Rally for Kids with Cancer will come roaring into Miami, having completed pit stops earlier this year in Los Angeles and Toronto. The day will be a celebrity-filled, adrenaline-fueled scavenger hunt across the city’s most exclusive venues, all to benefit some pretty worthy institutions: the Jackson Memorial Foundation, International Kids Fund, and Holtz Children’s Hospital.

While social calendars during Miami’s high-season are certainly filled with an assortment of philanthropic events that benefit deserving causes, Rally for Kids with Cancer breaks the mold. Eva Longoria Parker, who serves as the honorary chair for the RFK organization, explains, “I got involved with the Rally because it puts the ‘fun’ back in fundraising. It merges fun and glamour with the goal of raising money for kids with cancer.”

The fun-factor of the Miami event will kickoff on Friday, November 20, with “The Qualifiers” celebrity draft party. Here, Rally Drivers—who raised a minimum of $25,000 from sponsors and donors in order to participate—will have an opportunity to meet and recruit their Celebrity Navigator, whom they will pair with on Saturday for a scavenger hunt around the city. Drivers will have to choose amongst Adam Rodríguez (CSI: Miami), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break), Eva La Rue (CSI: Miami), hairstylist Ken Paves, Former Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis, and supermodel Elsa Benitez, amongst others. The team who has raised the most will get first choice of Celebrity Driver, and don’t let the minimum $25,000 donation fool you; during the Los Angeles Rally this May, the No. 1 draft pick went to Shawn Sanford of MSN’s Team Wonderwall, who raised $195,135.

On Saturday morning, Rally Drivers and their Celebrity Navigators will attend the “Start Your Engine” brunch, where they will be presented with a map of the city and their first clue before heading to the starting line. Here, Eva will wave the checkered flag, and then it is off to scour the city for the first of seven pit stops, where drivers and celebrities alike will have to perform various tasks in order to earn their next clue.

The glamour-factor comes in both the form of the A-list celebrities participating and “The Winner’s Circle” Gala Dinner, which will take place on Saturday night following the race. The “Jeans & Jewels” theme further reiterates that while there may be some first-class entertainment and a live auction, this is far from your typical charity event.

Which is what drew Eva to it in the first place. An incredibly active philanthropist, for the past three years, Eva has served as the national spokesperson for PADRES Contra El Cáncer (Parents Against Cancer). “Padres Contra El Cáncer is a non-profit group who is committed to improving the lives of Latino children with cancer and their families through translators, hospital transportation, health education, psychological support, and much more,” she explains. Eva says that she first visited the hospital nine years ago, and the experience changed her life. In addition to her spokesperson role with Padres, she also founded the San Antonio, Texas-based charity Eva’s Heroes. “I was blessed with an intellectually disabled sister myself,” she says, “and I have always been involved with this community. At Eva’s Heroes, we strive to help kids and young adults who are developmentally challenged by providing a setting where they can interact, grow, learn, and love.”

Despite a schedule that includes filming ABC’s award-winning show Desperate Housewives, operating two locations of her chic restaurant Beso (one established in Beverly Hills and one about to open its doors in Las Vegas), producing television and film shows under her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment brand, and being the face of L’Oreal and BEBE Sport, she manages to channel her energies to making the world a better place. “Eighty percent of my time is dedicated to charity,” she explains. “When you prioritize your life, [balancing everything is] easy, and charity is definitely one of my priorities. I find it a social responsibility to give back. It is our job as human beings on this earth to take care of one another, and when you have this way of thinking it’s easy to make time, because you must make time.”

Here in Miami, another extremely successful—and seemingly equally busy—woman shares the same mindset. Loren Ridinger, the senior vice president of Market America and one of Miami’s most influential residents, has built her life and career out of helping others. Market America is a one-to-one marketing concept that provides recession-proof income to millions, with individuals having earned $1.8 billion in commissions since Loren and her husband JR founded the company in their garage in North Carolina in 1992. Loren has been named the event chair for the Miami Rally for Kids with Cancer. “I couldn’t have found a better partner in Market America and Loren Ridinger, who understand what corporate responsibility is,” Eva says. “I commend them for taking on this challenge with me. Market America is an amazing company with a huge outreach and network of supporters.”

Market America simply makes life better for its UnFranchise owners and distributors, but Loren explains that knowing she has made a positive impact on the lives of thousands doesn’t satisfy her. “It’s an overwhelming feeling to wake up in the morning and know that so many people in Market America rely on you. At the same time, it’s very humbling and empowering because we want to do more.” She constantly strives to help others, even going so far as writing the blog “MyFashionCents.com,” where she teaches people how to recreate designer looks for less. It just so happened that at the 2009 Market America conference in Miami, she was presenting the blog to the audience using as an example a post about one of Eva’s pricey outfits, which Loren recreated for $150. The star herself was in the audience that day and jumped on stage, declaring that she wished she had taken Loren’s fashion advice before paying thousands for the frocks.

Eva was at the conference to show support for Loren, whom she refers to as a sister. So when Rally for Kids with Cancer decided to host its fourth event in Miami (this is Eva’s third go-round as the honorary chair), she asked Loren to help. “Loren is one of my dearest and best friends,” Eva shares, “so it was a no-brainer when we knew we were doing Rally for Kids in Miami that she and I would be collaborating on this great cause. Loren has a huge heart when it comes to her friends and family, and she carries that energy towards everyone she’s around. She is one of the only people I know with more energy than me, who can get things done faster and better than me, so I definitely knew I wanted her on my team.”

As the event chair for Miami’s Rally, Loren is actively drumming up support amongst her friends and colleagues. As of press time, team Market America is leading the race, having raised $34,922.75 thus far. The ultimate goal is to have 30 teams participate in Miami, and to hit those numbers, Loren and JR will be hosting a cocktail party at their Miami Beach home, Casa de Sueños, on Friday, October 16, in order to share details about the Rally with their posh circle of friends, which pretty much includes every influential individual in the city.

Eva will also be on hand during the private soiree, where she and Loren will explain the reason behind the Rally as well as how to get involved. The main thing to keep in mind is this: the more funds raised, the better draft position earned.

While the event experienced great success during its runs in Toronto and Los Angeles, Eva is excited for the Magic City to play host. “Miami is one of the most fun cities in the U.S.,” she states, “and has one of the largest Latino populations, which is the group that I advocate for. Padres just opened an office in Miami, so we wanted to get the city involved. The Rally will work well here because Miami offers a lot in the way of beautiful scenery, fun attractions, and things to do, and it is also a hugely giving city.”

As honorary chair, Eva is responsible for wrangling all of the celebrities and pairing them up with some of the most successful fundraisers in Miami. “I am also in charge of making sure everyone has a good time, and that’s not hard to do in Miami!” she quips.

Since each Rally for Kids event is catered to the host city, each locale offers something different for participants. In Los Angeles, the Rally drew support from celebrities like actor Adam Rodríguez, actresses Angela Kinsey (The Office), Bai Ling (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith), KISS rock legend Gene Simmons, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and actor Mario, and Miss USA Rachel Smith, amongst others. Pit stops included Universal Studios, where participants had to take goofy photos on sets, and Dodger Stadium, where they competed in a relay race. They were also subjected to some off-pitch singing at Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins’ recording studio and acting out skits in front of a panel of judges that included patients from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The underlying warning of the event is that thinking fast—not driving fast—will get you across the finish line first, and in L.A., it was Eva’s Team Microsoft Wonderwall that took home top honors, “despite the sabotage effort by Adam Rodriguez,” she shares.

No doubt that Miami participants can expect the same type of exciting antics to happen during the coming Rally. So the question remains: why don’t you participate?