It started off as just an idea. One man, his friends, and a weekend full of fun and sun in Las Vegas. But since Kevin Hart hosted his first Hartbeat Weekend in Sin City in 2014, the event has grown into a massive three day extravaganza.
“I don’t know how to do anything half-way, if I’m going to do it I’m going to give 110 percent to it,” Hart told ESSENCE. And he isn’t kidding. This year’s headliners included Usher and Dave Chappelle. “From music to comedy to parties, you’re having a good time.” “It was just supposed to be one weekend, then we saw we could grow it into so much more,” he continued. “We added charitable components to it and the weekend stands for so much more now. It’s not only a good time, but it’s a movement.”
Hart kicked off this year’s events by presenting BrittiCares International with a $150,000 donation during a private dinner celebrating its founders, Brittiana Renee’ Henderson and her parents Jamie and Shirell Henderson. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to brightening the lives of children who have cancer. In 2004, Brittiana was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma when she was just 10. While battling her illness, Brittiana would visit other children in the hospital and brighten their day by sharing little gifts and her seemingly boundless positive energy. “Brittiana was such a special young lady. She always thought of other people,” Jamie Henderson said of his daughter, who lost her battle with cancer in 2007. “When a new kid would come into the hospital Brittiana would approach her mom and say, ‘We should get them a gift.’ Then one day when Brittiana was in the hospital for a long period of time we made her room over. When she came home and saw it she said, ‘Mom, I think every kid should have a room like this.’”
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Two weeks after Brittiana passed away, her parents gave one lucky child his first bedroom makeover in her honor. The experience was cathartic. “We’ve been working ever since, it’s been nonstop,” Jamie said. “Has it been therapeutic? Yes, because we have not stopped since.”
Though they didn’t know Hart before he began working with BrittiCares in 2014, Shirell Henderson said the commedian connected with their organization’s mission because he lost his mother to cancer in 2007. “His mom passed away from cancer and we have a childhood cancer foundation and he really liked what we were doing because it’s a real mission,” Shirell said. “We’re real people helping real families and it’s from the heart. I think that’s what attracted him to what we do, and it’s been a blessing. I can’t wait to see how many more kids we can bless from this point on.” Hart agreed. “You’re dealing with kids who are dealing with illnesses that keep them confined to one area. If that’s all you’re seeing day to day, kids would much rather see something else,” Hart said of BrittiCares bedroom makeover program. “For the founders of BrittiCares to have that idea and present it in a way where we felt we could be of help and draw more awareness to the movement they have in place, it was a no brainer for us.”
In addition to providing dream bedroom makeovers, BrittiCares also provides scholarships, runs blood and marrow drives, hosts in-patient events for children confined to hospitals, and supports families whose children are battling cancer. Jamie said Hart’s involvement and support of the organization has been tremendous and will help even more families.. “For him to be involved in our organization, it’s been humongous. It’s a big deal for us,” he said. “What the donation will allow us to do is give back to the programs we have to offer. We’re very excited and to have Kevin Hart on board is utterly amazing.”