Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another Big Supporter of Aki Ra

Valley business aids one of
CNN's ‘Heroes'

Debra Gruszecki •
The Desert Sun • November
25, 2010

America is thankful for its heroes.

And tonight when CNN televises its “Top 10
Heroes,” Debby Alexander, proprietor of Peabody's
Café & Bar, will quietly celebrate the good works of
Aki Ra and the role the Palm Springs restaurant
played to help his cause.

Ra, a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, has
dedicated his life to detonating and dismantling the
landmines he once placed in Cambodia.

For Alexander's part, Peabody's held three separate
fundraising events — at which Cambodian art and
donated items from Palm Springs businesses and
small hotels were sold — with longtime customer
Bill Morse to raise $22,000 for the landmine relief

When CNN taped its all-star annual tribute in the
Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Alexander was
one of 13 people to get an invitation from Ra and
Morse to attend the red carpet event featuring
Jessica Alba, Renee Zellweger, Marisa Tormei, Aaron
Eckhart, Demi Moore and Halle Berry as presenters.

“It was a real thrill,'' she said.

“When Renee Zellweger came out and introduced
Aki, he spoke before this big crowd with limited
English,'' Alexander said.

“He spoke about his wife dying last year, and how
much she had helped him. It got emotional.”

Alexander was able to see Morse for a few minutes
as well.

He and his wife, Jill, moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia,
last year to help Ra get international certification
and a license from the Cambodian government to
legally remove landmines that once were deactivated
with a stick.

Morse also helped Ra get a $100,000 grant to buy a
truck and assemble a rapid response team that can
respond to villagers who find mines.

Ra, who sometimes placed up to 1,000 landmines a
day in the 1980s, has not only cleared more than
50,000 of the estimated 6 million explosives the war
left behind. Ra has also cared for dozens of children
who have been maimed by mines.

“I got to see Bill for a minute before he and Aki Ra
flew back to Cambodia,'' Alexander said.

“I got to meet other people who have helped the
landmine relief fund. While at the taping, I also got
to meet Richard Fatoussi, who is making a film
about Ra.”

Alexander said that film, “The Perfect Soldier,'' has
just been presented to judges of the Palm Springs
International Film Festival.

The CNN show will be televised at 5 p.m. today.

Peabody's Cafe, 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive, will be
closed tonight for the holiday and this simple
reason: Alexander has a date with the TV.

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