Sesame Workshop’s 21st Annual Benefit Celebrates the Life-Changing Power of Early Education, Honoring Shonda Rhimes and PNC Financial Services Group

The event also featured host Leslie Odom Jr., special guests Oprah Winfrey, John Oliver and Andra Day, and the Sesame Street Muppets.
Jun 3, 2024 11:50 AM ET
Three people and muppets posed together.

NEW YORK, June 3, 2024 /3BL/ - Sesame Workshop, the global impact nonprofit behind Sesame Street, hosted its 21st annual benefit gala, with the theme “Educate a Child, Build a Better World,” highlighting the Workshop’s commitment to building a future where all children can reach their full potential.

Sesame Workshop honored award-winning writer, producer, and author Shonda Rhimes with the Joan Ganz Cooney Award, which was presented by Oprah Winfrey. The PNC Financial Services Group was honored with the Civic Leadership Award, accepted by PNC’s Chairman and CEO Bill Demchak. The event was hosted by Tony and Grammy Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. at Cipriani 42nd Street and featured special appearances by John Oliver and the Sesame Street Muppets as well as a musical performance by Grammy Award winner and Oscar nominee Andra Day.

Last night’s benefit spotlighted the importance of reaching children in their critical early years when they are forming their sense of self and exploring a world of possibilities. Sesame Workshop brings playful early learning and support to children and families in more than 150 countries, as every caregiver’s valued partner and every child’s trusted friend.

“Investing in early learning leads to a wide range of lasting, proven outcomes,” said Sherrie Westin, President and Interim CEO, Sesame Workshop. “With the generous support of our donors, we are reaching children in a critical window in their development and putting them on a path to thrive.”

Shonda Rhimes was presented with the Joan Ganz Cooney Award for creating a world of inclusion, belonging, and togetherness where all children can see possibilities.

The PNC Financial Services Group received the Civic Leadership Award in recognition of its 20-year partnership with Sesame Workshop and its impact through the PNC Grow Up Great program, which focuses on helping prepare the youngest learners for success in school and life.

“The growth and development of a child’s brain, especially in the early years, is critical to their future success,” said Hillary Strong, Chief Development Officer, Sesame Workshop. “We are grateful for PNC’s partnership, incredible support of Sesame Workshop’s mission, and dedication to helping children build their toolbox of skills for school and life.”

Last night’s benefit raised $3 million, which will help Sesame Workshop continue to its commitment to the youngest learners and its mission to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Sesame Workshop’s social impact work is made possible with the generous support of like-minded partners including government, foundations, corporations, and individuals, as well as proceeds from the annual benefit gala.

Sesame Workshop extends a special thank you to Visionary Partners: the PNC Financial Services Group and Joan Ganz Cooney; and Neighborhood Heroes: Just Play Cares, Christy and John Mack, Ogden CAP Properties, Pfizer Inc., and Presidio for their exceptional generosity toward this celebration. Special thanks as well to Cipriani 42nd Street, Star Group Productions, Preston Bailey Entertainment and Set Design, and The Jim Henson Company for their support of last night’s benefit.

About Sesame Workshop 
Sesame Workshop is the global impact nonprofit behind Sesame Street and so much more. For over 50 years, we have worked at the intersection of education, media, and research, creating joyful experiences that enrich minds and expand hearts, all in service of empowering each generation to build a better world. Our beloved characters, iconic shows, outreach in communities, and more bring playful early learning to families in more than 150 countries and advance our mission to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Learn more at and follow Sesame Workshop on Instagram, X, Facebook, and TikTok.


Erin Elzo, Sesame Workshop