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Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete host festival to benefit families with autistic kids

April 12, 2010 |  8:40 am

Hollypeete3-web-low When you see a big guy walking around with a plate of food, and he's dressed in a dog suit, you can assume this isn't your everyday Hollywood event. Ditto if the entertainment includes the chance to pet a warty sea cucumber.

OK, so there was also a bouncy house and a bouncy slide and crafts tables and cotton candy, pretty much the normal stuff you'd see at a kids event. On Sunday, Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, Rodney Peete, kicked off the first My Brother Charlie Family Festival on the rolling lawn of Culver Studios to raise funds to aid families with autism.

"My Brother Charlie" is a new children's book co-written by Holly and her daughter, Ryan Elizabeth Peete, 12, whose real-life twin is the title character.

"My daughter came to me and said, 'I want to advocate for my brother,' " Holly said. " 'The kids at school aren't asking him for play dates, and I think it's because they're scared of what autism is.' So she said, 'Let's go down to school and have a conversation as a family.' And that's what we did. And that's really where the book came from, an opportunity to advocate for a kid on the [autism] spectrum and talk about how beautiful they are."

Fortunately for Holly and her family's HollyRod Foundation, nudging the LAUSD to provide services for kids with autism turned out to be good training for her gig on this season of "Celebrity Apprentice" (because HRP is one of, oh, a zillion Celebrity Apprentices taking over Los Angeles these days).

"There was no way I was going to leave my family for six weeks, or however long ...

Hollypeete5 web med small ... I was there, to do anything that wasn't going to focus on HollyRod," she said. "It's funny because my friends are like, you're so serious. And I'm, 'Yeah, I'm serious.' I want to win money. I didn't come on to revive a career. I didn't come here to be popular.

"When people were trying to pick on me, I'd be like, I'm not here for that. Last week, Sharon [Osborne] said you're not funny, and why are you here. And I said, I didn't come on to be Wanda Sykes, I came on to represent. And the funny thing is when they ask people to come on, everybody brings something. Cyndi Lauper brings her eccentric energy, Bret Michaels brings his rocker thing. I'm there to bring my sensibilities about fundraising and my fight for my kids."

The entertainment included a performance by the Miracle Project, the singing group from HBO's "Autism: The Musical" -- like "Glee," with autistic kids. Celebs who stopped by included Denise Richards, Cedric the Entertainer, "Cougar Town's" Busy Phillips, "The Biggest Loser" host Allison Sweeney and BooBoo Stewart from "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."

-- Irene Lacher

Top photo: "My Brother Charlie" co-authors Ryan Elizabeth Peete, left, and mom Holly Robinson Peete at the My Brother Charlie Family Festival on Sunday in Culver City. Credit: Alex Berliner / BEImages

Bottom photo: Holly Robinson Peete with Cedric the Entertainer. Credit: Alex Berliner / BEImages

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