The Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala is held at the Cipriani in New York City. Sesame Workshop hosts the evening as a fundraising event, and to honor outstanding individuals around the world who have contributed to education.
2003, 35th Anniversary
- Date - June 4, 2003
- Host - Katie Couric
- Honored - Kofi Annan and his wife Nane Annan
- Attendees - Tony Bennett, Mike Renzi, John Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney, Glenn Close, Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado, Sonia Manzano, Loretta Long, Roscoe Orman
- Muppets - Elmo, Big Bird (Matt Vogel), Zeliboba, Pino, Abelardo Montoya, Kami, Zoe, Rosita, Ernie (John Tartaglia), Bert, Grover (Paul McGinnis), Oscar (McGinnis)
- Date - Jun 02, 2004
- Host - Diane Sawyer
- Honored - Desmond Tutu
- Attendees - Oprah Winfrey, Matt Lauer and Annette Lauer, Tina Brown and Harry Evans, George Stephanopoulos and talk show host Ali Wentworth, Cynthia McFadden and Deborah Roberts, Martha Stewart, Maria Bartiromo, Lesley Stahl and author Aaron Latham, actress Carol Kane, Heather Headley, artist Peter Max, Bob Kerrey (New School President and head of 9/11 Commission), publisher Mort Zuckerman and Judge Kimba Wood.
- Muppets - Elmo, Grover, Kami, Zuzu, Zikwe
- Date - June 1, 2005
- Host - Barbara Walters
- Honored - Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan and Stan O’Neal (Chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch and Co., Inc.) "for creating educational opportunities around the globe."
- Attendees - Vanessa Williams and New York Post gossip journalist Liz Smith.
- Muppets - Elmo, Tonton (Heather Asch)
- Date - May 31, 2006
- Host - Matt Lauer
- Honored - Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, for her commitment to reducing poverty, malnutrition and disease, and protecting children from abuse and violence, and Alan C. “Ace” Greenberg, Chairman of the Executive Committee of The Bear Stearns Companies Inc., for his work in helping children better cope with trauma and uncertainty.
- Attendees - Lillias White, Michael Bloomberg, Joan Ganz Cooney, Gary Knell
- Muppets - Hoots the Owl, Oscar the Grouch, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Rosita, Telly, Kami (Leslie Carrara-Rudolph)
- Date - May 30, 2007
- Host - Matt Lauer
- Honored - Laura Bush and James E. Rohr, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., "for PNC's 10-year, $100 million investment to improve access and quality of early childhood education to benefit children and communities."
- Attendees - Jenna Bush and Barbara Bush, Brian Stokes Mitchell
- Muppets - Elmo, Rosita, Big Bird, Abby Cadabby
- Date - May 28, 2008
- Host - Anderson Cooper
- Honored - Richard Parsons (Chairman, Time Warner Inc.) with a Corporate Leadership Award, for his funding of Galli Galli Sim Sim, and Susan and Michael Dell with a Global Leadership Award.
- Attendees - Nitya Vidyasagar, Soledad O'Brien, Joan Ganz Cooney, Gary E. Knell
- Muppets - Elmo, Grover, Chamki
- Links - sesameworkshop.org
2009, 40th Anniversary
- Date - May 27, 2009
- Host - Brian Williams
- Honored - NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
- Attendees - President Barack Obama (via pre-recorded video), Sheryl Crow, Al Roker and Deborah Roberts, Bianna Golodryga, Joel Schumacher, Kate Snow, Joan Cooney, Lloyd Morrisett, Paula Zahn, Roscoe Orman
- Muppets - Elmo, Zoe, Rosita, Abby Cadabby, Grover, Michael Bloomberg Muppet
- Date - June 2, 2010
- Host - Robin Roberts
- Honored - Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden
- Attendees - General George Casey and wife, Jean Chatzky, John Legend, Martha Raddatz, Joel Schumacher, Christine Teigen, Deborah Roberts, Bob Woodruff
- Muppets - Elmo, Zoe, Rosita, Abby Cadabby, Grover, Cookie Monster, Snuffy (attending the event for the first time)
- Date - June 1, 2011
- Host - Deborah Roberts
- Honored - Charles MacCormack, President and CEO, Save the Children and Merck, accepted by Richard T. Clark, Chairman of the Board
- Attendees - Joan Ganz Cooney, Cheryl Henson, Gary Knell, Joel Schumacher, George Stephanopoulos, Paula Zahn
- Muppets - Kami (Stephanie D'Abruzzo), Telly Monster, Abby Cadabby, Grover, Cookie Monster
Cookie Monster was quoted as: "Cookie is a sometime food and vegetables is an everything food, so me just eat three centerpieces. But me hope cookies for dessert!" The centerpieces were made of yellow peppers and green apples.
- Date - May 30, 2012
- Host - Jon Stewart and Elmo
- Honoring - Bill Clinton and UnitedHealthCare (represented by CEO Gail Boudreaux)
- Attendees - Joan Ganz Cooney, H. Melvin Ming, Laura Brown, Lesli Rotenberg
- Muppets - Elmo, Murray, Abby Cadabby, Zoe, Rosita, Oscar, Big Bird, Cookie Monster (Peter Linz)
The Muppeteers and their characters perform "Sing" and "We Are the World".
- Date - May 29, 2013
- Hosts - Ali Wentworth and George Stephanopoulos
- Honoring - Susie Buffett, Qualcomm
- Attendees - Joan Ganz Cooney, H. Melvin Ming, Cheryl Henson, Bob McGrath, Joel Schumacher, Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, Ann Lembeck Leary, Sarah Zeid, Bernie Williams
- Muppets - The Count, Cookie Monster, Oscar, Telly, Murray, Elmo (Ryan Dillon), Zoe, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Chickens, Penguins, AM Monster
- Links - Sesame Workshop Blog, "Ho Hey" performance (video), "Sing" performance (video)
- Date - May 28, 2014
- Hosts - The Sesame Street Muppets (Elmo, Abby, Grover, Cookie Monster, Big Bird)
- Honoring - Joan Ganz Cooney
- Attendees - Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney, Ali Wentworth, George Stephanopoulos, Joel Schumacher, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Lesley Stahl
- Muppets - Elmo, Cookie Monster, Murray, Count von Count, Zoe, Telly Monster, Abby Cadabby, Ernie (John Kennedy), Bert (John Tartaglia), Rosita, Grover, Prairie Dawn (Pam Arciero), Oscar the Grouch (Tyler Bunch), Big Bird
- Musical guest Michael Bublé performs "You Make Me Feel So Young," "Young at Heart" and "Sing"
- Date - May 27, 2015
- Hosts - Nancy O'Dell and the Sesame Street Muppets
- Muppets - Bert (John Kennedy), Elmo, Big Bird, Abby Cadabby, Murray Monster, Ernie, Rosita, Cookie Monster, Grover, Count von Count, Segi, Kami, Raya
- Honoring - United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, and Google
- Musical guest Sara Bareilles
- Date - June 2, 2016
- Hosts - John Oliver and the Sesame Street Muppets
- Muppets - Elmo, Telly, Cookie Monster (Peter Linz), Grover, The Count, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird
- Honoring - Exceptional Minds, IBM
- Musical guest Charlie Puth performed his song "One Call Away," as well as James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend."
- Date - May 31, 2017
- Hosts - John Oliver and the Sesame Street Muppets
- Muppets - Elmo, Grover, Telly, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, The Count, Bert, Ernie (Peter Linz), Oscar, Big Bird
- Honoring - Hasbro
- Musical guest Chris Jackson performs "Try a Little Kindness," and Andy Grammer sings "Keep Your Head Up" and "What a Wonderful World." Grammer, Jackson, Oliver and the Muppets perform "Sing."
- Date - May 30, 2018
- Hosts - Katie Couric and Elmo
- Muppets - Elmo, Zoe, The Count, Abby Cadabby, Rudy
- Honoring - Beaches Resorts, Ann Thomas (president/CEO of Children's Place)
- Musical guest Trombone Shorty
2019, 50th Anniversary
- Date - May 29, 2019
- Hosts - Hoda Kotb
- Honoring - Michelle Obama, the Ford Foundation (represented by president Darren Walker) and the Carnegie Corporation (president Vartan Gregorian)
- Special guests Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Oliver, Chrissy Teigen
- Musical guest John Legend
- Presenters - Joan Ganz Cooney, Sonia Manzano
- Muppets - Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Snuffy, Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Rosita, Zoe, Cookie Monster (Tyler Bunch), Julia (Pam Arciero), Grover (Frankie Cordero), The Count (Andrew Moriarty)
- Date - June 2, 2021 (virtual)
- Host - Gayle King
- Honoring - John Legend, Procter & Gamble (represented by Marc Pritchard)
- Special guests Amanda Gorman, Michelle Obama, John Oliver, Sterling K. Brown, Keedron Bryant, Anna Cathcart, Katie Couric, Darren Criss, Kelvin Dukes, Sophie Fatu, Ina Garten, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Tori Kelly, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin, Brandon "Taz" Niederaur, Leslie Odom Jr., Norah O'Donnell, Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, Trombone Shorty, WanMor
- Musical performances by Stevie Wonder (lifted from 50 Years of Sunny Days), Jon Batiste, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots
- Songs: "Sesame Street Theme," "Count Me In," "Believe in Yourself," "Sing"
- Muppets: Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Grover, Rosita, Tamir, Gabrielle, Wes, Count von Count
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefit gala was instead a prerecorded event and was streamed online for donors on June 2. The program was then made availible to stream for free to the general public between June 6 and 30.