The fourth annual NRF Foundation Gala took place Sunday, January 14, at Pier Sixty in New York City, featuring an uplifting awards program and formal dinner that included both silent and live auctions. The star-studded event raised more than $2.8 million to support the Foundation’s programs, including educational and inspirational initiatives, student scholarships and RISE Up, a powerful, industry-backed credentialing program.

“We are so grateful for the retailers and partners who made 2018 another record-breaking year for the Gala,” NRF Foundation Executive Director Ellen Davis said. “Our work is made possible through generous contributions from companies and individuals who believe in the future of retail and see it as the industry that powers America’s workforce. We look forward to putting these funds to work by continuing to execute programs and initiatives that shape retail’s future.”

The Gala was attended by more than 800 retail CEOs and senior executives, industry insiders, celebrities and students who came together to support the future of retail talent and to celebrate The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future. In addition, four-time NBA champion and ESPN sports analyst Shaquille O’Neal presented NRF’s “The Visionary” award to Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, a recognition for an inspiring leader with a record of spearheading change in the industry.

At the Gala, the NRF Foundation also announced the recipients of its Student Challenge and Next Generation scholarships. Courtney Nash, a senior at the University of Arizona, was the top recipient of the 2018 Next Generation Scholarship. Nash, one of five finalists, was awarded a $25,000 scholarship. In addition, the NRF Foundation named Ashley Cairns, Blake Fortin and Kendall McDermott from Columbia College Chicago as the top team in the Student Challenge competition; each was awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

In addition to members of the National Retail Federation’s Board of Directors and the NRF Foundation’s Board of Directors, other notable guests included Omar Miller from the HBO hit series “Ballers,” super model Niki Taylor, Dorinda Medley and Kristen Taekman from the Bravo hit series “The Real Housewives of New York City,” and E! News celebrity correspondent Alicia Quarles.

The Gala capped off the first day of NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, welcoming 36,000 retailers and their business partners from around the world at the Javits Center in New York City, January 15-16, 2018.