Daughter of former president 'inspired' by work of Canaan

Daughter of former president 'inspired' by work of Canaan

URBANA – A fundraising dinner Friday featuring former President George W. Bush's daughter brought together community leaders to support the Canaan Development Foundation.

Jenna Bush Hager delivered the keynote speech, during which she said she was "inspired" by the work of the Canaan Development Foundation after spending a day with one of its directors.

A quick scan of the crowd revealed several notable faces, with University of Illinois President Michael Hogan and Champaign and Urbana mayors Jerry Schweighart and Laurel Prussing among them.

"I admire your community's dedication to protecting those who are vulnerable because of abuse of drugs and alcohol," Hager said.

The $100-per-plate dinner is an annual event for the Canaan Development Foundation, and it benefits the group's programs, such as substance abuse rehabilitation houses for men and women, as well as the Canaan Academy, a Christian elementary school.

The foundation's SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environment) House for women has yet to open its doors, but organizers hope Friday's dinner was a step in doing so.

Larine Cowan, a member of the foundation's board of directors, said the group chose Hager as its keynote speaker because of her experience teaching children in Baltimore schools and with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.

Hager is the chairwoman of UNICEF's "Next Generation," a program that aims to reduce the number of preventable childhood deaths. Hager was also recently introduced as a contributing correspondent for NBC's Today Show.

Hager relayed the stories she gathered as an NBC correspondent and during her work with UNICEF. She said she encountered children who were sick, malnourished and undereducated.

"These stories don't just exist overseas," Hager said. Some children in Champaign-Urbana, she continued, "don't have the education they need, and you have an organization to fix that."

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