Marc Anthony and Henry Cárdenas Prep Their Annual Gala to Support Orphaned, Disadvantaged Kids

ISSUE 6 2019 - DO NOT REUSE!!!
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Anthony (center) at the opening of Orphanage Children of Christ in the Dominican Republic in 2012.

The pair's Maestro Cares Foundation will honor Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Vin Diesel and Vicente Fox on March 14.

Marc Anthony spent Christmas 2011 in the Dominican Republic, visiting an orphanage on the island alongside his friend and longtime concert promoter Henry Cárdenas. Fundacion Niño de Cristo, which housed 50 boys, was a pet project for Cárdenas -- owner of CMN, the leading Latin concert promotion company in the world -- and his wife, Elena Sotomayor, and the two often visited with gifts for the kids. But the building was small, shabby and in need of a makeover.

"I walked in there and saw those kids, and I was just shocked," Anthony told Billboard in 2014. "I looked at Henry and said, 'We need to do something.'" The two funded the construction of a five-acre compound where the children could each have their own bed and closet. "It's so important for their dignity to have their own things," says Anthony. "We built this orphanage in less than a year."

With that project, Cárdenas and Anthony co-founded the Maestro Cares Foundation, which on March 14 will host a gala honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Vin Diesel and Vicente Fox. While the gala, now in its eighth year, always features a performance by Anthony, it's just one of the organization's initiatives.

Since its inception, Maestro Cares has invested roughly $2 million per year into more than 20 projects in countries and territories like Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Peru, Puerto Rico and Chile, with the goal of improving the quality of life for orphaned and disadvantaged children. In 2018, the organization also began construction on a community center in Chicago, Cárdenas' longtime home, in partnership with SOS Children's Villages.

In addition to donations raised by the gala, $1.50-$2 of every ticket that Cárdenas sells to a CMN tour goes to Maestro Cares. Then, instead of disbursing funds to different organizations, Maestro Cares physically builds facilities, and finds a local partner to run them. "I want you to see where your money went," says Cárdenas. "I want you to touch it."

Currently, Maestro Cares is building two homes in Chile for children who undergo kidney treatments and their families, in partnership with the Mater Corporation; in Guatemala, it's remodeling five schools in partnership with the Tigo Foundation; and in El Salvador, with help from a major Central American concert promoter, it's building homes for foster families that take in orphans.

Cárdenas also is bringing other artists he works with into the fray. In Cali, Colombia, where he was born, he partnered with Maluma to build a community center for SOS Children's Villages. In Puerto Rico, he's partnering with UNICEF and Bad Bunny's foundation to rebuild eight baseball fields decimated by Hurricane Maria. "Our mission is to [give back to] each Latin American country," says Cárdenas. "There's a lot to do."

For Cárdenas, the mission is also personal. He grew up in the Cali neighborhood of Siloé, one of the most marginalized in the city. "I was extremely poor. I never had a bicycle or refrigerator," says Cárdenas, who went to live with an uncle in Chicago when he was 16. "When I see these kids I see myself, and I know they need help. I don't care where they're from, it's the right thing to do."

This article originally appeared in the March 9 issue of Billboard.