Some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Wendie Malick, Amy Smart, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and world-champion surfer Kelly Slater, attended the 16th annual Heal the Bay “Bring Back the Beach” dinner, which honored Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his contributions to the environmental health of California’s coast and his leadership on the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI).

The annual event was held May 31st at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.

“We must be diligent in our efforts to keep California at the forefront of environmental protection and resource efficiency, improving our surroundings and making our state a better place to live and visit,” Schwarzenegger said. “Environmental education in our K-12 [kindergarten through 12th grade] school system will prepare California’s young people to be knowledgeable citizens, make informed decisions about California’s future and ensure a clean, healthy and secure outlook for our state.”

Heal the Bay also honored the National Geographic Society for nearly 120 years of journalism, research and education about the planet and environment and more recently, its part in California’s successful Education and the Environment Initiative, which introduces environmental curriculum into K-12 public classrooms.

The dinner also featured a special presentation by Kelly Slater of the Dorothy Green Award to Grammy Award winner Brian Wilson.

Wilson, of the Beach Boys, performed a full set of the Beach Boys’ greatest hits, including California Girls and Surfin’ USA, followed by local favorite Jacks Mannequin.

Heal the Bay has more than 12,000 members. This year’s gala, sponsored by Michael and Jena King, attracted more than 1,100 attendees and was emceed by comedian Bob Saget.

Themed “One Child Can Make a Difference,” the event focused on the importance of early environmental education.

“We strongly believe that children who learn about caring for the world around them at an early age grow up to be more responsible and environmentally conscious individuals,” said Heal the Bay president Mark Gold.

Heal the Bay supporter Ford Motor Company donated a brand-new fully-loaded 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid valued at $32,000, which was auctioned off for $37,000 at the dinner.

Heal the Bay raised more than $700,000 to promote the organization’s ongoing work.

Heal the Bay, celebrating its 22nd year, is dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe and healthy again for people and marine life.

The organization focuses on education, outreach, research and advocacy through programs like Coastal Cleanup Day each September and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

Beach Report Card weekly and annual updates are available at www.healthebay.org/.

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations.

Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the society works to inspire people to care about the planet.

It reaches more than 350 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and four other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; DVDs; maps and interactive media.

National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy.

Information, www.national geographic.com/.

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