What It's Really Like Attending a Hollywood Charity Event in the Age of Coronavirus

Race to Erase MS founder Nancy Davis and her team helped raise $1.4 million for research during a drive-in gala.

By Mike Vulpo Sep 08, 2020 10:29 PMTags
Watch: Derek Hough, Lucy Hale & Loni Love Attend Race to Erase 2020

If there's a will, there's a way!

Across the country, fundraisers, galas and charity events were put on hold once the coronavirus pandemic put an end to large gatherings. 

But on Friday, Sept. 4, Multiple Sclerosis advocate Nancy Davis welcomed hundreds of guests to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. for a special reimagined Race to Erase MS Gala. Instead of heading inside a prestigious hotel ballroom like in the annual event's 27-year history, guests were invited to "Drive-In" for an evening of music, celebration, fundraising and awareness for the life-altering disease.

"It was important to me to just get the ball rolling again and we need to still fund research for MS," Nancy explained before kicking off the star-studded event. "That's what we do. We do it every year. We have great research going on and it's so important not to stop that ball rolling."

Instead of a traditional red carpet filled with reporters, celebrities including Maureen McCormick, Victoria Justice, Anne Heche and Mark-Paul Gosselaar posed in their cars for just one or two photographers before driving to their assigned parking spots separated by six feet.

Celebs Giving Back Throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic

Gift bags delivered in car trunks at the start of the event included face coverings and hand sanitizer. A separate bag was filled with edible treats from Penne Straws by Pasta Snacks, Snack Pop popcorn and other generous sponsors.

Dinner, including a delicious fried chicken sandwich and ice cream, was catered by celeb-favorite Craig's and safely delivered in to-go style lunchboxes. In fact, meal time appeared to be one of the few occasions attendees removed their masks while in their cars. 

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Race to Erase MS

"Even though we're in a pandemic," Loni Love shared on the carpet, "I was so happy that the organizers and Nancy were able to come up with a way for us to still raise money, still give attention to this deadly disease and I just have to support something like this." 

Derek Hough added, "During these times, it's about being innovative and finding ways to still gather in a safe way, still raise awareness, still be a force for good but in a safe, safe way."

While some elements of the annual gala changed, others stayed consistent. Guests were still treated to live performances from a variety of artists including Andy Grammer, Eric Benét and Siedah Garrett.

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Race to Erase MS

"You can expect my first performance to a bunch of cars, which I think is going to be unbelievable," Andy shared before performing his biggest hits. "I've never done it before and I'm super excited to figure it out."

A live and silent auction was still held during the event, but primarily done virtually by scanning a QR code. Items included everything from a 30-minute reading with Hollywood medium Tyler Henry to a mini Australian labradoodle. And yes, there was a bidding war for both. 

Tommy Hilfiger provided the fashion show for this year by unveiling a virtual presentation of his new Fall 2020 Adaptive Collection on big screens spread throughout the parking lot. 

And throughout the program, guests were encouraged to honk their horns and flash their vehicle lights as a way to cheer.

"There's an expression I like to use," Derek explained. "Where focus goes, energy flows…I think it's important to be smart but I think it's also important to be focused on what's good as well to sort of magnify it."

Event organizers deserve credit for executing an event that ended up raising more than $1.4 million. 

And after following guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, the drive-in experience is proof that charity events can still move forward safely. 

To see more highlights from the star-studded 2020 Drive-In to Erase MS gala, keep scrolling below.

Nancy Davis & Anne Heche

During the event, the Dancing With the Stars contestant presented Nancy to the stage who dedicated the evening to the memory of her son Jason Davis who passed away in February at 35. 

Mark-Paul Gosselaar

"We were so happy to be able to attend the event and be included in such a wonderful event benefiting such an important organization that does great work year after year," the Saved by the Bell star told E! News. "My wife and I truly enjoyed the evening, which they made happen in a way that was so safe for everyone."

Lucy Hale

"The world is obviously in a very interesting place—way different than it was last year—so I think it's awesome that people are thinking a little left of center so these things can still happen," the actress shared. 

Jason Wahler

During the event, The Hills: New Beginnings star announced Red Songbird Foundation would be donating an annual scholarship, in honor of Jason Davis, for someone who is struggling with depression and or addiction while fighting their battle with MS.

Victoria Justice

Let's rock for a good cause! With cars spaced out at least six feet, the actress was able to enjoy performances from Andy Grammer and more artists. "Tonight was so much fun," Victoria shared with E! News. "What an incredible event for an amazing cause. It was so nice to be out at the drive-in event and enjoy great music, snacks [like Candy Pop Popcorn] and the beautiful LA night."

Pia Toscano

"This was truly an amazing event and I was so happy to be able to come and support," the singer shared with E! News after enjoying Adrenaline Shoc Smart Energy drink at the event. "They do such important work and I love everyone involved. They did it in such a beautiful, creative way, that was safe for all and had amazing talent performances."

Andy Grammer

"To use music for good is the best possible thing and to see how much precautions they have taken and how much extra effort they've put on just to do this, it's inspiring because they know it's needed and they didn't give up," the "Honey, I'm Good" singer shared. 

Derek Hough & Hayley Erbert

"These crazy times, I feel like support is needed across the board and so being here is an absolute pleasure," the World of Dance judge shared before serving as a presenter. 

For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov. To plan your vaccine, head to NBC's Plan Your Vaccine site at PlanYourVaccine.com.