07/23/2007 AT 07:35 PM EDT
is starting to make good on her post-jail promises
to help others, turning out at a friend's charity gala to raise funds for children with spinal cord injuries.
"It's a great organization," Hilton told PEOPLE at Sunday's Life Rolls On Foundation's 4th annual Night By the Ocean auction. "It gives people hope and I'm really happy to be here to support Jesse."
Hilton's close friend Jesse Billauer, a former pro surfer who is now paralyzed, founded Life Rolls On.
The heiress bid on (and won) a $17, 500 surfing lesson with Billauer and Adam Sandler. Even Hilton's black-and-white dress was a bit of a charity case, created by 19-year old fashion student she met when he helped pump her gas.
"He said he loved me and my style and showed me 30 dresses he designed just for me. I was amazed by how incredibly talented he was," Hilton said of designer Jonathan Bash.
Although Hilton was recently seen frolicking in Malibu
with new pal Tyler Atkins, 21, she claims she's all business. "I'm just focusing on doing a movie right now," she says. "It's a surprise but I start shooting next month."
And in the meantime, when not hitting the clubs
, she says she'll continue to try to do good.
"I was just at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital visiting all of the kids and premature babies in the cancer ward," she said Sunday. "I met with philanthropists and they're doing a summit with five major charities and we'll be doing stuff all over the world. I'm excited."
Reporting by KIMBERLY LANSING