2020 Beat the Odds® Celebration2020-03-06T15:06:26-05:00

2020 Beat the Odds® Celebration

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Our 2020 CDF Beat the Odds® Celebration will be an experience of hope and inspiration as we seek to solve the challenges facing millions of children around the country through the impacts of the work of the Children’s Defense Fund.  The Celebration encourages everyone to use their voices and advocate for all children as we honor and celebrate our 2020 CDF Beat the Odds honorees. All proceeds from the gala will support the Children’s Defense Fund’s work across our many programs and initiatives around the country.

As we commemorate our 30th year since our CDF Beat the Odds program began in 1990, we continue our work to improve the lives of all children—both in the Washington, D.C. region and across America. The Celebration will feature the CDF Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony which will honor five exceptional young people whose lives offer examples of the challenges no child should face, as well as the incredible potential that exists in every child.

Meet the Honorees

Adeolu (Parkdale High School, Maryland) is a role model in his community whose thoughtfulness shines through in everything he does. He is a first generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. Members of Adeolu’s family struggle with mental health issues, straining the family’s relationships and resources. Despite these challenges, Adeolu has taken on responsibility to help care for and support his family, while remaining dedicated to his school work in a rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum. For the past several years, Adeolu has worked at an after school program in his community for children ages 3-13 and has become a patient teacher, caring mentor, and trusted friend to the children he serves. Adeolu plans to attend college and study to become an engineer, and is committed to returning to give back to the community where he grew up.

Caleb (Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington, D.C.) is a living testament to the fact that you should never assume how strong a person is from the outside. Caleb was born with cerebral palsy and in kidney failure due to a rare condition called Prune Belly Syndrome. For most of his life he has undergone dialysis three times a week, yet has maintained more than a 3.5 GPA and an active extracurricular schedule. He is an avid comic book and video game fan, writes fiction for his school newspaper, participates in archery, and gives back to the community by volunteering with Children’s National Hospital. In January of this year, Caleb underwent a life-changing kidney transplant. Looking ahead to a bright and healthy future, Caleb aspires to be a criminal justice lawyer or an English teacher.

Diana (George Washington University, Washington, D.C.) is a shining example of the power of courage and determination. After a difficult childhood in El Salvador, Diana came to the United States as a teenager and began her freshman year in high school knowing no English. Not only did Diana become fluent in a matter of months, but she graduated high school in just three years and earned a full ride to George Washington University, where she is currently enrolled as a freshman. Diana uses her voice to advocate for gender equality and more inclusive, fair and humane treatment of immigrants in her community and across the country. Diana hopes to become a social worker or immigration lawyer focused on supporting immigrant children and youth in their transitions to life in the United States.

Jazmen (E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.) is a bold leader whose contagious smile and optimistic spirit lift up everyone around her. She has faced challenges no child should encounter, including abuse by a family member as a child and the sudden death of her father in 2018. Through these experiences, Jazmen has become a strong advocate for herself and for others who face similar situations. Jazmen is also dedicated to her academic success, extracurricular activities and athletic endeavors. She serves as the captain of her basketball and volleyball teams as well as playing on the lacrosse team at her high school. Inspired by her own experiences, Jazmen plans to obtain both undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work so she can help children who need support, just as she was helped in her journey.

Mikaela (T.C. Williams High School, Virginia) has proven that when passion combines with purpose, anything is possible. Mikaela came to the United States as a child with her mother in search of a better life for their family. Even as they encountered discrimination and sometimes struggled to find stable housing, Mikaela worked hard in school, taking full advantage of the educational opportunities available to her in America. Motivated by the realities she saw around her in school and in her community, Mikaela founded clubs at her high school focused on female empowerment and equity for immigrant students. She has also organized community events to raise awareness about social justice and immigrant rights. Mikaela plans to become an immigration lawyer to continue fighting for all people to have a fair shot at the American dream.


Twenty-six year old, Cordelia Cranshaw, a former foster youth and now, foster system advocate; motivational speaker; and Licensed Graduate Social Worker; is the current Miss District of Columbia USA 2019. Cordelia earned her undergraduate degree from George Mason University and, graduated with her Master of Social Work from the University of Maryland’s Advance Standing Social Work Program.

Four years ago, she founded her nonprofit organization, Acts of Random Kindness (ARK), a program that provides programs and resources to children and families facing life challenges that include incarcerated parents, homelessness, and foster care. All adversities that Cordelia herself has faced in her life. Cordelia, who is one of 18 siblings, grew up most of her life in foster care, first at the age of five, and then at the age of 14 until the age of 21, where she was often bounced from home to home and at some point, was even homeless. Her mother was incarcerated for 10 years when Cordelia was just 12-years old and her father was an alcoholic. Cordelia was often told, she would most likely be a statistic and never make it in the world on her own, yet, she continues to defy the odds each and every day as her resiliency and her path in helping others, has earned her recognition throughout Washington, D.C. and the country with her inspirational story.

Cordelia’s first priority as Miss District of Columbia USA 2019 is to help inspire others to turn their dreams into reality. She states, “No matter what life challenges you face, no matter how negative the circumstances are, we can always turn negatives into positives.” Cordelia will travel to local schools and youth groups, sharing her experiences and tools for success. She wants to instill hope into those who feel hopeless and believes we are all only one resource away from reaching our dreams.

Cordelia had the honor to represent the District of Columbia at the 2019 Miss USA pageant in May. Although Cordelia did not bring the crown back to the District, she placed Top 10 out of the 51 contestants. Cordelia continues to show that no matter where your past has been, your future can be anything you can dream it to be.


Denice Cora-Bramble, MD, MBA is the Chief Medical Officer & Executive Vice President of Ambulatory and Community Health Services at Children’s National Health System in the District of Columbia. In this role she leads the tri-state clinical operations of CNHS’ primary and specialty sites including regional outpatient centers, emergency departments, community health centers, pediatric practices, school-based health centers, mobile medical units as well as nursing services in DC Public Schools & Public Charter Schools. She also oversees the telemedicine program and the Clinically Integrated Network at Children’s National.

After finishing a Bachelor of Science degree at George Washington University Dr. Cora-Bramble completed her medical and pediatric residency training at Howard University and a Master in Business Administration with a concentration in Medical Services Management from Johns Hopkins University.  Her professional development also included a three year W.K. Kellogg Foundation Leadership fellowship. Dr. Cora-Bramble held several leadership positions at the George Washington University Medical Center and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Cora-Bramble is a Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics. She is the recipient of the highest national honor in community pediatric education, the Academic Pediatric Association and American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Pediatric Community Teaching Award. In 2016 she was recognized by the Washington Business Journal with a “Woman Who Means Business” Award. She was also featured in the book Against All Odds: Celebrating Black Women in Medicine, as one of 100 of the most prominent historical and contemporary Black women physicians in the US. In 2017, she was selected by the Washingtonian Magazine as one of Washington’s “Most Powerful Women”. In 2019, Dr. Cora-Bramble was awarded the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Award by the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Center for Faculty Excellence in recognition of her significant achievements in the field of diversity and inclusion.

As an engineer, community servant, and researcher, Richard Ezike employs his expertise to engage the community on issues related to environmental protection, transportation equity, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) advocacy. He is currently at the Urban Institute as a senior policy associate in the Research to Action Lab, where he manages a directive to ensure innovative technologies are accessible and inclusive of all communities. He was previously at the Union of Concerned Scientists, where he conducted research and engaged community groups on the potential social and economic impacts of autonomous vehicles, and at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) in the Center for Policy Analysis and Research, where he researched the impacts of transportation on African American communities. He has contributed to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board’s (TPB) Long Range Transportation Plan, has organized and moderated transportation-themed panels at the CBCF’s Annual Legislative Conference, and has been published in media such as The Washington Post, Futurism.com, and The Washington Informer.

Ezike has served on several local transportation advisory groups, including the Riders Advisory Council of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Access for All and Air and Climate Public Advisory Committees of the TPB. He also serves on regional leadership of the National Society of Black Engineers. Ezike holds a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor and a BS in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University.

Sara Mora is a national immigrant rights activist who began her activism at the short age of 14. Now 22 years old, Sara spends her time leading national campaigns and efforts to build consciousness and a call to action immigration reform matter.

Known as ​@MissSaraMora​ on social media globally, Sara has become a sought-after voice in the work of social change and community empowerment. In high school, Sara led conversation around the importance of empowering young students who like her were in need of role models. When she graduated high school she debuted as an activist when interviewing at the time President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis(2014-2018) on DACA and questioning external countries role in supporting young people with DACA.

After the Trump administration terminated the DACA program in September 2017, Sara Mora decided to come out publicly as undocumented, a leader for young people who are beneficiaries of the DREAM act. She is an organizer, digital guru and media strategist.

A DACA recipient herself, Sara has been a model for many young people who are facing one of the most uncertain and frightening times in their lives. In May 2017, Sara Mora obtained her International Relations A.A and is preparing to enroll in the Political Science program at Rutgers Newark.

Recognized by The Washington Post as one of “seven leading lawyers” in Washington, D.C., Jan Pederson has been dedicated to the practice of immigration and nationality law for over twenty years. Ms. Pederson has successfully represented thousands of clients – including renowned physicians, Fortune 500 companies, television networks, entertainers, and healthcare providers of all sizes – and is masterful at resolving complex immigration issues.

Ms. Pederson is a leading advocate for the rights of J-1 Physicians in the United States and has been key to the passage of legislation to benefit them. She is also the publisher of J-1 Physician News and lectures nationally and internationally to foreign physicians. She seeks solutions for her clients beyond the immigration laws and does not hesitate to seek assistance from the White House and Congress if necessary. She has been a key advocate on the restoration of the National Interest Waivers for J-1 Physicians and in increasing the Conrad State 20 J-1 Waiver Program within the Conrad State 30 Program.

Ms. Pederson served as president of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA); and as an elected director of the national Board of Governors of AILA for eighteen years. She has served as a chairperson of the Physicians Task Force of AILA for many years and has also served as chairperson of the AILA Visa Office Liaison Committee and Refugee Committee. In 1997, she received the Edith Lowenstein Award for excellence in the advancement of the practice of immigration law. The national media has recognized Ms. Pederson’s expertise in immigration law and called upon her to comment on important issues and legislation. Ms. Pederson has been interviewed by CNN, ABC News, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Times and The Legal Times of Washington, D.C., to name a few. She is the founder and Editor of J-1 Physicians News, a newsletter focusing on issues of concern to J-1 physicians.


Sponsoring the 2020 CDF Beat the Odds Celebration offers a meaningful opportunity to align the shared values of our donors and organizational partners with the Children’s Defense Fund’s mission so we can continue to impact the lives of millions of America’s children.

By sponsoring the CDF Beat the Odds Celebration, you will join other powerful allies helping the Children’s Defense Fund champion policies and programs to improve the odds for America’s children. We hope that you help us work toward a future where, together, we can end child poverty, invest in our children and young people through education and leadership development, and empower our children to unlock their potential to make an meaningful difference in their communities and the world.

A series of sponsorship levels are available offering opportunities for you and/or your organization to be recognized for your commitment to making a difference in the lives of children. There are also opportunities for you to promote your brand while supporting the work of the Children’s Defense Fund.

To find the best sponsorship opportunities for you and/or your organization, please contact Crystal Rucker at crucker@childrensdefense.org or 202-662-3626.

  •  Prominent Sponsor Logo Recognition on all Beat the Odds Celebration materials and logo featured on-screen at venue.
  • Exclusive signage at the private “VIP Pre-Dinner Reception” to showcase your brand and host VIP supporters and partners
  • Two VIP Dinner Tables (20 seats)
  • 20 Priority Seats at the Beat the Odds Celebration Awards Ceremony
  • Acknowledgment as the Beat the Odds Celebration sponsor during the VIP dinner
  • Logo placement on CDF’s website and social media platforms, as appropriate
  • Opportunities for corporate employee (volunteer) engagement
  • Full-page inside front cover advertisement or full-spread in the printed program
  • A published, joint press release announcing your partnership with CDF
  • Logo Recognition on all Beat the Odds Celebration materials and logo featured onscreen at venue. Two Priority VIP Dinner Tables (20 seats)
  • 20 Premium Seats at the Beat the Odds Celebration Awards Ceremony
  • Acknowledgment as the Beat the Odds Celebration sponsor during the VIP dinner
  • Opportunities for corporate employee (volunteer) engagement
  • Logo placement on CDF’s website and social media platforms, as appropriate
  • Full-spread advertisement in the printed program
  • Logo Recognition on all Beat the Odds Celebration pre-event materials
  • One Priority VIP Dinner Table (10 seats)
  • 10 Premium Seats at the Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony
  • Acknowledgment as the Beat the Odds Celebration sponsor during the VIP dinner
  • Logo placement on CDF’s website and social media platforms, as appropriate
  • Full-page advertisement in the printed program
  • 5 seats at VIP Dinner Table
  • 5 Premium Seats at the Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony
  • Half-page advertisement in the printed program
  • Logo placement on CDF’s website and social media platforms, as appropriate
  • 4 seats at VIP Dinner Table
  • 4 Premium Seats at the Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony
  • Acknowledgement in the Beat the Odds Celebration printed program
  • Logo placement on CDF’s website and social media platforms, as appropriate
  • 2 seats at VIP Dinner Table
  • 2 Premium Seats at the Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony
  • Name recognition in the Beat the Odds Celebration printed program and website





Event Logistics

The Children’s Defense Fund looks forward to you and your guest(s) experiencing an evening of inspiration and hope when you attend our 30th annual CDF Beat the Odds Celebration. Sponsors of our annual gala are invited to attend our pre-dinner VIP reception, VIP dinner, CDF Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony and a dessert reception. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, click here to read more about available sponsorship opportunities and to download the sponsorship prospectus.

We invite everyone to attend the CDF Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony and dessert reception by making a generous monthly commitment or purchasing tickets in support of the Children’s Defense Fund’s work to the improve the lives of all children across the region. If you are interested in attending the CDF Beat the Odds Awards Ceremony and dessert reception as a monthly donor, please click here for more information. To purchase tickets or make a contribution, please click here.

Here are a few event logistics that will be helpful for you and your guest(s):

  • Please email dcbto@childrensdefense.org or visit the event website at www.childrensdefense.org/2020dcbto prior to the Celebration if you have any other questions.
  • In advance of the Celebration, please look for an email from our event consultant, KFK Associates, who will confirm the name(s) of your guest(s) to ensure your seat assignment cards are ready at check-in.
  • Carnegie Institution for Science is located at 1530 P Street, NW in Washington, DC.
  • Complimentary Valet Parking is provided to all guests – (Valet entrance is located on P Street, NW).
  • The Award Ceremony begins promptly at 7:30 pm followed by a dessert reception which will include live entertainment.
  • Dress is Business Attire.


The Children’s Defense Fund interacts with parents, child advocates, policy makers, community leaders, members of the media, donors,and many others who are passionate about improving the lives of America’s children. In 2018, CDF launched a new website to better engage with our supporters and the communities we serve. There are many opportunities to strengthen your brand and increase your visibility to the more than half a million households we reach annually through our online presence, constituent mailings, and our social media platforms. As a sponsor, you will have an opportunity to demonstrate to the community your organization’s values and commitment to improving the lives of children.






For media inquiries, please contact Emily Gardner, CDF’s Director of Communications, at egardner@childrensdefense.org or (202) 662-3554.


If you have questions about: