Commentary: Ted Turner Is A Cornerstone Of UN Philanthropy

United Nations Foundation Founder and Chairman Ted Turner attends the United Nations Foundation Annual Leadership Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

When Atlanta media mogul Ted Turner gave $1 billion in 1997 to establish the U.N. Foundation, it broke the mold of major philanthropic contributions.

Nearly 20 years later – Turner received the Global Philanthropist Award from UNICEF’s Southeast region at its Children First event on March 30.

In the 90s, the United Nations needed a friend like Ted Turner. The organization was facing financial and political uncertainties.

When Turner pledged $1 billion to create a foundation to support the ideals of the United Nations, the organization’s prospects began to change.

Ed Lloyd, UNICEF’s chief financial officer, said that Turner’s gift had actually been leveraged to a total of $2 billion. UNICEF alone had received $500 million from the U.N. Foundation over the life of the gift.

When Turner accepted the Global Philanthropist Award, it was obvious he was moved by the recognition.

He said he knew when he gave $1 billion, it was one of the most important decisions he’d ever make.

Atlanta is well represented on UNICEF’s national board, with attorney Bernard Taylor, NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo and former UPS executive Daniel Brutto.

In the spirit of giving, Brutto handed over a $300,000 check from the UPS Foundation to UNICEF – culminating an evening that also featured Athens band the B-52s. In all, the event raised about $950,000 for UNICEF.

And that money will continue to provide vaccines for children, protect them from malaria and assist women and girls in need.

Maria Saporta is editor of SaportaReport.