Who: Jennifer Ganer, Board Member, Save the Children
Day Job: Actress.
Backstory: As a first-grader in West Virginia, Jennifer Garner was friends with a set of twins who came from a poor family. "When I went to second grade, they stayed in first grade, and when I went to fourth grade, they disappeared," says the 42-year-old. "I just kept thinking, What happened to those kids?"
Driving Force: Rural poverty is an issue that doesn't get much play on the gala circuit, but that's what makes her devotion to the issue so remarkable. "Once you become a mom, you realize that everyone loves their children the same amount," says Garner, who is featured in the forthcoming PBS documentary series A Path Appears. "So if these moms in Arkansas or Mississippi love their kids as much as I love my kids, how is it fair that they don't have the help they need to make their kids' lives as good as they can be?"
Success Story: With Save the Children, Garner has helped bring books, toys, and early-childhood development training to families across the country. On a trip to California's Central Valley—one of the poorest regions in the U.S.—Garner visited a nonverbal 11-month-old who was given a rubber ball. The boy, who'd never seen a ball before, began flapping his arms and babbling at his mother, who, with gentle encouragement, started talking with her baby for the first time. "It was like a light flicked on," Garner recalls. "As brick-by-brick as this work is, it can change a kid's life."
Photo via Peter Hapak