Orange County Philanthropy Honored

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Joining me at National Philanthropy Day at Hotel Irvine were the Outstanding Legacy Award recipients, General William and Willa Dean Lyon

Joining me at National Philanthropy Day at Hotel Irvine were the Outstanding Legacy Award recipients, General William and Willa Dean Lyon

It was a full ballroom – 855 people, in fact – who gathered at Hotel Irvine to celebrate the 29th annual Orange County’s National Philanthropy Day, this year themed “Giving is Always in Season.” One of my favorite events, it honors a group of individuals, nonprofits and businesses who represent philanthropy at its finest. Hosted by the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), co-chairs Kristine Peters and Mitchell Spann welcomed everyone and asked their committee, past honorees and the nominees to stand and be recognized.

Following the presentation of colors by Air Force ROTC Unit 055 from UCLA and the singing of “God Bless America,” led by the quartet, The Overtones, from Orange County School of the Arts, PBS So Cal stars Maria Hall Brown and Rick Reiff, serving as mistress and master of ceremonies, stepped to the podium. They recognized the 36-member judging committee, led by Pat Poss and Jill Bolton, as well as the event’s Honorary Chair, Victoria Collins. Collins, a 2013 honoree for Outstanding Philanthropist, quoted Margaret Mead, saying, “‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.'” It was certainly apt for the event.

AFP Orange County President Chris Baiocchi shared that more than 100 AFP chapters around the country were also celebrating NPD and referring to the AFP’s mission, he stated, “Our members believe in the power of ethical and effective fundraising, and we believe everyone in philanthropy – donors, volunteers and staff – are doing noble work in the community.”

Then, the awards were presented, with each honoree receiving a beautiful award created by artist John Barber. First up was the Outstanding Youth award presented to Ariel Yarrish, who founded Future in Humanity to help Orange County’s homeless in 2011 at age 20. Baiocchi announced that the AFP Orange County chapter was designating $2,500 from its foundation to a charity of Yarrish’s choice. She indicated that Future in Humanity would be the recipient. Baiocchi also presented Yarrish with a $750 check from AFP-OC’s Scholarship Fund for her continuing development and education.

Sal Provenza received the Outstanding Philanthropic Group award on behalf of the Building Block Foundation Fund, for which he is chairman. The fund, established in 2004, includes members of the commercial real estate community, who have collectively given $2 million to children-related charities since its founding. John Most, founder of MOST Brand Development + Advertising accepted the award for his business as Outstanding Small Corporation (less than 50 employees), and Ralph Linzmeier, Jr. was presented the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser award for his countless hours of service to a variety of Orange County nonprofit causes.

PBS SoCal’s President and GM/COO, Mel Rogers and Andy Russell, respectively, presented the Outstanding Mid-Size Corporation award (50 to 499 employees) to Rutan & Tucker LLC, California’s largest full-service law firm, headquartered in Orange County. Accepting the award was Managing Partner Steven Nichols.

The Outstanding Large Corporation award (500+ employees) was presented to ACT (Accelerate Change Together) Anaheim, which includes Disneyland Resort, Anaheim Ducks and Angels Baseball. Managed by the Orange County Community Foundation, it is dedicated to meeting the needs of youth in Anaheim. Accepting the award was Disneyland Resort President Michael Colglazier, Anaheim Ducks’ owners Drs. Henry and Susan Samueli and Angels Baseball Foundation Chairman Mark Merhab.

Je’net Kreitner was presented the Founder award for her work as founder/executive director of Grandma’s House of Hope, an organization that seeks to empower more than 3,500 underserved women, children and families annually in Orange County. Doug Freeman, founder of National Philanthropy Day, presented the Outstanding Philanthropist award to Catherine Klein Sorensen, who stated, “Volunteerism is the integral force in philanthropy.”

And last, but certainly not least, was the Outstanding Legacy Award, presented to General William and Will Dean Lyon by honorary chair Victoria Collins. The couple has been active supporters of Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Boy Scouts of America, and the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of United Way for many years, with William serving as board chairman for each nonprofit.  Willa Dean got Bill interested in Orangewood in the ’70s and their charity involvement and support grew from there. “It’s been a joy to see Orangewood grow,” Willa Dean tearfully stated.

NPD-OC’s longtime Presenting Sponsor, the Orange County Register, was represented by its Publisher Aaron Kushner, who spoke about the newspaper’s third annual Golden Envelope program, which encourages the public to determine which Orange County nonprofits receive up to $2 million in free advertising.

The quote of the day came from Rutan & Tucker’s Steven Nichols, who said, “It has been said that you have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Philanthropy in a nutshell!

Selected photos courtesy of Jim Doyle

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Dr. Geza von Habsburg Speaks of Russia’s Imperial Crown Jewels

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Joining me at Women of Chapman's presentation of "The Russian Imperial Crown Jewels: Their Origins and Their Fate" by renowned speaker His Imperial Highness Dr. Geza von Habsburg were Mona Nesseth, Donna Bianchi and Donna Calvert

Joining me as program co-chair at Women of Chapman’s presentation of “The Russian Imperial Crown Jewels: Their Origins and Their Fate” by renowned speaker His Imperial Highness Dr. Geza von Habsburg, center, were WOC board member Mona Nesseth, President Donna Bianchi and program co-chair Donna Calvert

It was an amazing presentation. His Imperial Royal Highness, Archduke Dr. Geza von Habsburg, Prince Imperial of Austria and Prince Royal of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, (how’s that for a title?!) spoke to close to 100 members and guests of the Women of Chapman on “The Russuan Imperial Crown Jewels: Their Origins and Their Fate.” Held at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, Dr. Habsburg’s presentation held everyone spellbound as he spoke of Russian history leading up to World War I.

Speaking of World War I, von Habsburg is the great-great grandson of Emperor Franz-Joseph I of Austria and grandson of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. In case you’re not up on your European history, it was the assassination of Emperor Franz-Joseph’s heir-presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, his nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo in 1914 that sparked the beginning of World War I. Out of that war, the Russian empire was taken over by the Bolsheviks and renamed the Soviet Union.

The Bolsevicks, according to von Habsburg, confiscated all the Russian nobility’s jewelry they could get their hands on, and, after Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra and their children were murdered, the jewels they were wearing sewn into their clothes were also taken, along with jewelry confiscated while they were imprisoned. “A lot of the jewels were sent to Moscow and disappeared,” von Habsburg said.

After the 1917 revolution, Russia’s new rulers debated what to do with the crown jewels. This 1925 black and white photo shows the collection. Some of the revolutionaries saw the jewels as symbols of centuries of exploitation — gems that ought to be sold to benefit the workers. However, much of the collection was preserved by curators at the Kremlin in Moscow because clearer heads prevailed and were able to who convince the leaders that the gems had enormous historical significance.

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One of the major pieces to be preserved was the Imperial Crown of Russia (below), also known as the Great Imperial Crown. It was created for Empress Catherine the Great’s coronation in 1762 and used by the emperors of Russia until the monarchy’s abolition in 1917. It is set with close to 5,000 Indian diamonds, a number of fine, large white pearls and a large precious red spinel weighing 398.72 carats. It is currently on display in the Moscow Kremlin Armoury State Diamond Fund.

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Enough jewelry remained, however, that the Soviets held a Christie’s auction in 1927 because they badly needed money. They also resorted to breaking up major pieces of jewelry to sell the stones and melt down the metals. From 1928 to 1933, the Bolsheviks devised a five-year plan, whereby they confiscated jewelry from the nobility and sent everything to the Kremlin. “There were crates of jewelry and great works of art,” von Habsburg said. “They took all the silver after 1820 and melted it down.”

The Bolsheviks sold off many of the imperial family’s jewels and possessions, including the famous Faberge eggs Nicholas II commissioned for his family, and many of those items can’t be located today, according to von Habsburg. However, the Nuptial Crown (below) is another rare exception with traceable whereabouts. It was sold by Christie’s in 1927 and was acquired by Marjorie Merriweather Post, an American businesswoman. Mrs. Post was an avid collector, whose fortune came from the Post cereal company started by her father, which she turned into General Foods. Her third husband was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and during their tenure in Moscow, she turned her collecting eye to the spoils of the Russian revolution. She amassed what is said to be the finest collection of imperial art outside of Russia. This crown and her other treasures are in the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C, which is her former home.

The imperial brides wore the Russian Nuptial Crown. Made from diamonds which were used as trimming for clothes and in a belt of Catherine the Great, it measures a mere four inches in diameter. Petite though it is, it isn’t lacking in impressive stats: there are 320 larger diamonds weighing 182 carats total and 1,200 smaller diamonds totalling 80 carats, mounted in silver and set on a crimson velvet crown.

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The imperial brides also wore the tiara below, which was most notable for its central pink diamond, a rose-colored stone of impeccable quality, which comes from the treasury of Emperor Paul I (1754-1801) and clocks in at more than 10 carats. The diamonds here are all of the finest quality. They come from Brazil and India and are mounted and set in silver and gold. A row of hanging briolette diamonds dangles above, and the tall tiara is topped by diamond uprights. Unlike many of the imperial jewels, the tiara survived the revolution and is today in the possession of the Russian government.

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I could go on and on. Von Habsburg’s photos showed the overwhelming extravagance of the Russian imperial court. There was nothing quite like it anywhere. These are jewels of almost magical significance, symbols of unbridled power and wealth. The glittering jewels were worn by generations of czars, czarinas, grand duchesses and other imperial court members.

Von Habsburg was delightful. Brought to us by Mona Lee Nesseth, one of our Women of Chapman members, he is a Fabergé expert, has published many books and articles on the jewelers Peter Carl Fabergé and Victor Mayer and has curated several major international Fabergé exhibitions. He spoke to our Chapman support group in 2009 on Faberge’s role as Imperial Jeweler to the Russian Tsars. As an educator, von Habsburg served as an associate professor at the New York School of Interior Design, the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, and at New York University. He is currently a lecturer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

To view the Russian Imperial Family jewelry, please go to the YouTube video below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_95PyZTaTQ

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Girls Scouts Celebrate Leadership

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Joining me for Girl Scouts of Orange County's Fifth Annual "Celebrate Leadership" benefit were, from left,

Joining me for Girl Scouts of Orange County’s Fifth Annual “Celebrate Leadership” benefit were, from left, GSOC’s CEO Nancy Nygren and honorees Betty Mower Potalivo, Lynn Jolliffe, Dr. Mildred Garcia, Joann Leatherby, Sandra Hutchens, and Jane Buchan.

I am always taken with the Girl Scouts – literally, Girl Scouts who live in Orange County – who participate in the “Celebrate Leadership” fundraiser that Girl Scouts of Orange County hosts annually. The fifth annual benefit, held at the Island Hotel in November, paired six of the top Girl Scouts (one as young as age six) with six extraordinary local female leaders, all Girl Scout alumnae. It was truly a night to cherish!

The event drew nearly 350 guests to the benefit, where a festive silent auction reception proved great fun with speciality drinks featuring names from some of the iconic Girl Scout cookies, including “Lemonade Coconut” margaritas and “Carmel DeLite” martinis.

Girl Scouts of Orange County CEO Nancy Nygren welcomed everyone and asked former Girl Scouts and Girl Scouts volunteers to stand (there are 22,000 active Girl Scouts in Orange County and 10,000 volunteers to guide and support them). “When we think of Girl Scouts,” she said, “we often envision girls selling cookies in front of Ralphs. And, while our Girl Scouts are selling those highly addictive Thin Mints and Caramel Delights, they are developing vital leadership skills that are essential for success in the 21st Century – like goal setting, decision making, money management, business ethics, and people skills.” Nygen lauded the thousands of dedicated volunteers who help girls develop those skills.

Nygren also acknowledged GSOC’s Board Chair and 2010 “Celebrate Leadership” honoree Julie Miller Phipps, a top executive with Kaiser Permanente, who was leaving in a few days to become president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia. The popular leader received a huge round of applause.

Nygren introduced event co-chairs Donna Giordano, Ralphs Grocery Company President, and Shannon Kennedy, Regional President for BNY Mellon Wealth Management, who thanked the event sponsors, with Kennedy asking the current and past “Celebrate Leadership” honorees to stand and be acknowledged, including Giordano, who was honored in 2013.

Following a fun live auction, overseen by auctioneer Victor Gonzalez, my favorite part of the event commenced, with the introduction of each honoree with their Girl Scout partners. After the pairs met, each girl created a special art canvas that represented her connection to the honoree, and she presented it that evening. I must tell you that each of the Girl Scouts’ remarks about how Girl Scouts has made a difference in their lives, as well as their remarks to their honorees were completely memorized. It blew me away!

Giordano and 2010 honoree Shirley Quackenbush shared the introductions. The first honoree, Joann Leatherby, President of the Leatherby Family Foundation, was paired with Girl Scout Brownie Gracie Finley, who said of the art piece she presented to Leatherby, “I painted a library because we both love learning and books – and you even have your own library at Chapman University!” – Chapman’s Leatherby Libraries. “Each book title I drew has words that you shared are important to you, like passion and persistence. These words are important to me, too.” (are you teary-eyed yet?!)

Next up was honoree Jane Buchan, CEO of PAAMCO, a leading hedge fund investment firm, where one-third of the partners are women. Her partner, Girl Scout Senior Sharleen Loh, thanked Buchan for being a role model for the next generation of female leaders. “I know that with self-confidence, I can pursue my passion and become a great leader like you. Thank you for showing me that there’s nothing that can stop me from achieving my dreams.”

Dr. Mildred Garcia, President of Cal State Fullerton, made history as the first Latina president in the California State University system. Girl Scout Junior Alexandra Vasquez said of Garcia, “You are my role model, Dr. Garcia. Thank you for showing me that I have the power to shape my own future.”

Berry Mower Potalivo, Region President of Northern Trust, was accompanied by Girl Scout Daisy Kassidy Lee, who, holding the canvas she created for Potalivo, said, “I know that you put a lot of love into everything you do. At work, you listen to people you help and make their money grow. In my painting, the watering can shows your love watering a Girl Scout Daisy. Thank you for showing me that helping others is an important part of being a leader.”

Girl Scout Ambassador Christina Meyer, partner to Lynn Jolliffe, Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Ingram Micro, declared Joliffe a role model, saying, “The canvas I created for you illustrates the strengths you possess: your passion for learning, your fearlessness in the face of new challenges and your drive to help others.”

Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens was the final honoree, and her partner, Girl Scout Cadette Moira Clark, said to her, “Sheriff Hutchens, you are such an inspiration to me. You are committed to standing up for what’s right and helping others. Girl Scouts has shown me that I don’t need to be afraid to stand up for myself and others.”

Together with sponsor, auction and tickets monies, as well as “Fund the Mission” pledges, more than $270,000 was realized in net proceeds. Guests departed with a beautiful Keepsake Calendar, which showcased the honorees and their Girl Scout partners, and a box of Thin Mints! Loved it!

Selected photos by Laurel Hungerford

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‘American Celebration’ Shines Again!

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Joining me at Chapman University's "American Celebration" evening were its co-chairs, Mark Johnson, second from left, and his wife Barbara, right, along with Honorary Chairs Marybelle and Paul Musco

Joining me at Chapman University’s 33rd Annual “American Celebration” black-tie benefit were its co-chairs, Mark Johnson, second from left, and his wife Barbara, right, along with Honorary Chairs Marybelle and Paul Musco

Chapman University’s 33rd Annual “American Celebration” black-tie benefit, always a crowd pleaser, did not disappoint! The evening, which showcases students from Chapman’s College of Performing Arts, performed on campus in Memorial Hall for an august crowd of nearly 800.

The 135-member cast sang and danced their way through the “Masquerade: Mystery and Wonderment”-themed show that featured music from Pippin, Jekyll & Hyde, Young Frankenstein, and Phantom of the Opera, with special performances of the popular ’40s song, “That Old Black Magic” and Michael Jackson’s iconic ’80s “Thriller,” with Chapman’s President Jim Doti performing Jackson’s famous moonwalk. But, it was left to Doti and Chapman philanthropist Julia Argyros, both in gypsy attire, to bring the house down, as student singers and dancers performed the R&B fave “Love Potion No. 9,” while Chapman graduate and proud hubby George Argyros, along with daughters Stephanie and Lisa Argyros, cheered Julia on.

The student performers were awesome, and I want to mention two singers, in particular, who performed “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde. Their voices were absolutely amazing! Kudos to seniors Kylena Parks and Daniel Emmet! (see their performance photo) Kudos, also, to Artistic Director and Producer Dale Merrill and Musical Director and Conductor William Hall for heading up the stellar Broadway-style musical revue. Merrill shared that the students only had 10 rehearsals to put the show together. That’s impressive!

Scattered throughout the show, moments were taken to showcase the evening’s honorees. I was very impressed to see veteran stage and screen actress Annette Bening making an appearance as Chapman’s Lifetime Achievement in the Arts recipient. Not only did the Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning star attend, but she arrived early in the day to conduct a master class for the university’s theatre and screen acting students. Receiving the award, Bening shared that she had reached a point in her career where she is trying to bring a sense of the beginner’s “wonder” to her work. “This award will inspire me to do that,” she said.

Also honored were longtime Chapman supporters Bette and Wylie Aitken as the university’s Citizens of the Year. Their largess extends to many arts causes throughout the county. “Thank you for honoring us for supporting the things we love,” Bette said. Also recognized were the benefit’s Vice Chairs Brenda and Michael Carver, as well as the stellar list of Honorary Chairs, which included Julia and George Argyros, Catherine and Jim Emmi, Suki and Randall McCardle, and Marybelle and S. Paul Musco.

Masquerade elegance followed guests into the mammoth transparent dinner tent alongside Memorial Hall, with its sparkling crystal chandeliers and French-themed black, silver and white table decor. The black-sequinned butterflies were the perfect touch! I loved seeing the white-gloved wait staff offering tray-passed gimlets in champagne glasses – they were delish! Dinner was first-rate, with a scrumptious roasted black angus filet lapped in cabernet demi sauce, accompanied by lobster macaroni and cheese.

The hot, hot band – The Heroes – entertained throughout the evening and kept the dance floor packed well into the night. This affair is always one of my favorites on the charity circuit. The good news is that a lot of money was netted for student scholarships. Here! Here!

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St. Jude Gala Impresses All-Round!

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Joining me at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's 12th Annual Orange County Gala were its chair Trish Coury and Honorary Chair Alfredo Molina, President/CEO of Black, Starr & Frost

Joining me at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s 12th Annual Orange County Gala were its chair Trish Coury and Honorary Chair Alfredo Molina, President/CEO of Black, Starr & Frost

Beautiful Lisa Rinna welcomed an elegantly dressed crowd to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s 12 Annual Orange County Gala at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. The actress is passionate about St. Jude, as witnessed by her appearance on Celebrity Apprentice, where she raised $504,000 for the hospital and its work in pediatric treatment and research focused on children’s catastrophic diseases.

Alfredo Molina, another huge St. Jude supporter and Chairman/CEO of jewelry icon, Black, Starr & Frost, was the gala’s Honorary Chair. He thanked St. Jude for the honor on behalf of the entire jewelry team.

Robert Machen, CIO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, spoke about advancements of the distinguished research hospital, including its Pediatric Genome Project and the Proton Beam Radiation Device, which will be the only one of its kind in the world when it launches later this year. It targets cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone. Machen also talked about the 52-year-old facility’s history in impacting childhood leukemia. He said St. Jude Founder Danny Thomas invited 36-year-old oncologist, Dr. Donald Pinkel, to come on board as the hospital’s first Medical Director. “As a result of this great man’s leadership and St. Jude’s continued efforts,” Machen said, “I’m happy to report that the most common form of cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which had a survival rate of 4% in 1962, today it’s now 94%!”

Kristen Tanner spoke glowingly about St. Jude and the treatment her young baby daughter Natalie received there after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumor in 2007. Following months of chemotherapy and scans that revealed the cancer had spread to Natalie’s spine, Natalie went home to hospice care, and the family prepared for the worst. Amazingly, she got better, and when she returned to St. Jude for a follow-up visit, her scans were clear. Now Natalie is seven, and Kristen confided. “Because of St. Jude, I know Natalie loves the color pink and loves to give her brother a hard time.”

Gala chair Trish Coury thanked her committee, which included auction chair Ashley Duva and committee members Analisa Albert, Carolyn Ausman, Sarah Besso, Sheila Carden, Michelle Garvin, Raylene Gonzalez, Teri Haddon, Kathy Hall, Dawnielle Kelley, Alisa Levitt, Marica Pendjer, Bryn Ryan, Julie Ann Ulcickas, and Sonya Zamora.

The live auction, with Mark Drilling and his team at the helm, drew some spirited bidding and multiple wins for the Angels Baseball Suite and the Bluewater Grill cocktail party for 50. Ashley and Mark Duva grabbed the Danny Thomas ProAm Golf Package, and the Black, Starr & Frost $5,000 gift certificate and dinner for eight in its Newport Beach location was won by two men – Butch Peri for his wife Annie, and Tres Petmecky for wife Kalia. They both paid $10,000!

JT & Friends, led by major gala supporter John Tu, entertained guests featuring a Las Vegas style singer named Sergio, who sang some spot-on Frank Sinatra songs, and a group of singers, who performed a medley of songs from Grease that had guests rockin’ on the dance floor. The ladies departed with a bottle of Black, Starr & Frost’s “Unforgettable II” perfume.

Together with silent and live auction monies, Gift to Live pledges, sponsorships and underwriting, net proceeds reached an impressive $250,800 for the cause.

Pssst…Lisa Rinna’s hubby Harry Hamlin attended with her! (see photo)

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High Tea Still a Highlight at 25!

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Joining me at the 25th annual Orange County Ronald McDonald House's High Tea and Fashion Show are its co-chairs Jenny  ????, Isabelle Villasenor and Lisa ????

Joining me at the 25th annual Orange County Ronald McDonald House’s High Tea and Fashion Show are co-chairs Jenny Briones, Isabelle Villasenor and Lisa DeBono

It is hard to believe that the Ronald McDonald House High Tea and Fashion Show celebrated its 25th annual fundraiser supporting the Orange County Ronald McDonald House. I’d venture to say that I’ve attended just about every high tea and have always been impressed with the passion everyone involved has in raising money for OCRMH and its mission to provide a “home-away-from-home” for families with critically ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.

This year’s effort, held at the Balboa Bay Resort, attracted 350 guests and was chaired by Isabelle Villasenor and her two daughters Jenny Briones and Lisa DeBono. They have all individually chaired the tea before, but, as Isabelle said, “It was time we did it together.” The owners of eight McDonalds, as are many of the supporters, the trio not only give of their time but have been major underwriters for many years. Isabelle currently serves on the local board of trustees and was a member of the Southern California board for 10 years as president of its Grant Board.

Following a festive cocktail reception and jam-packed silent auction, guests gathered in the ballroom for a scrumptious high tea with all the trimmings – loved fresh scones with Devonshire cream and preserves! The flamboyant Ronald McDonald and master of ceremonies Zack Krone welcomed everyone, with Krone telling of his first-hand experience with Orange County McDonald House. He said his new-born son Monty was born lifeless the week before the tea but was revived. Because he was in NICU at CHOC Children’s, Zack and his wife stayed at OCRMH. “We stayed two nights and had a chance to stay close to him,” he said. With Monty coming home three days before the tea, Krone was emotional when he said, “Thank you to all of you who support this amazing home.”

Krone introduced the co-chairs, with Isabelle leading a toast for OCRMH’s 25th anniversary tea as well as the 25th anniversary of its founding. She credited the tea’s late Chair Emeritus Gene Widdicombe for launching the tea and fashion show in 1989. “Starting with 75 guests at The Center Club, over the years we have greatly increased the guest count and raised nearly $2 million to care for critically ill children,” she said.

Isabelle stated that another celebration was in order, that of Ronald McDonald Charities’ 40th anniversary. She recounted its founding in Philadelphia in 1974, when Fran and Fred Hill struggled to remain close to their daughter Kim, who was battling leukemia. Their struggle inspired a doctor (Dr. Audrey Evans), an NFL team (Philadelphia Eagles), a community, and a restaurant chain (McDonald’s) to create and build the first Ronald McDonald House. Today, the effort is now global, with programs and services provided to approximately nine million children and their families in nearly 62 countries and regions around the world. The Orange County Ronald McDonald House alone comforts and supports more than 2,000 individuals each year.

Lisa and Jenny recognized the tea’s sponsors and presented custom artwork created by a child helped by OCRMH to the major supporters. Dr. Maria Minon, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for CHOC Children’s and OCRMH’s Board of Trustees Chair, recognized some special guests, who were in attendance and instrumental in establishing OCRMH. They included founding Board of Trustees President Dr. Genni Bennetts, original architect Bill O’Keefe and founding board members Janet Emery and Ron Van Winkle. 

The well-received fashion presentation showcased fashions from Fashion Island stores, including Nordstrom, Halston Heritage, Vince Camuto, Trina Turk, Garys, and Ella Moss. OCRMH Executive Director Noel Burcelis then stepped to the microphone to introduce Brittney and Robert Gossett, whose daughter Irelynn was born with a rare defect called gastroschisis (her intestines were outside of her body). Brittney shared that they were welcomed at OCRMH to be close to their daughter, who had three surgeries in three days to save her life. Finally, after 81 days in NICU, Irelynn came home (see photo of the family). “The OCRMH changed our lives,” Brittney said. “We were inside a house full of love, hope, prayer, and determination for kids and parents, and we are forever grateful for people who help support this amazing house.”

Krone presided over the live auction, opportunity prize drawing (there were 14 baskets!) and Fund A Family pledges, which, together with the silent auction, underwriting and ticket monies, realized net proceeds of $108,500. It was a good day for a 25th anniversary high tea celebration!

Fashion photos by Jon Didier

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Bowers Exhibition from China a Sensation!

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Joining me at Bowers Museum's gala exhibition opening of "China's Lost Civilization, the Mystery of Sansingdui" was the museum Board of Governors Chairman Anne Shih

Joining me at Bowers Museum’s gala exhibition opening of “China’s Lost Civilization, the Mystery of Sanxingdui” was its Board of Governors Chairman Anne Shih

It’s not too late to drop by Bowers Museum in Santa Ana to view the remarkable exhibit, “China’s Lost Civilization, the Mystery of Sanxingdui.” It closes March, 15, 2015. The opening night gala, which debuted the stunning, nearly 4,000 year-old bronze exhibit, drew 330 guests to the Bowers, which is known for showcasing spectacular exhibits, in particular, the “Forbidden City” and the “Terra Cotta Warriors” – twice! Long time supporter Anne Shih – I call her Bowers’ “First Lady” – is the museum’s Board of Governors Chairman, as well as its Chinese Arts Council President. She has been responsible for bringing blockbuster exhibits to Bowers from Beijing, Taiwan and Tibet for years. She worked tirelessly to bring “China’s Lost Civilization” to the museum, along with Bowers President Peter Keller, who readily acknowledges her success in securing major exhibits and in raising funds to pay for them. Guests were wowed by the 120-piece exhibit, discovered in 1986 and acknowledged by many scholars as one of the greatest archaeological finds ever unearthed in China. The exhibition’s monumental bronzes, unlike anything ever seen before, were created by a culture that appears to have thrived around 1200 BC and after 350 years, abruptly vanished. The seven-foot elongated bronze figure and the bronze heads wearing gold masks were standouts. There were also hammered gold discs, ivory tusks and jade. An elegant champagne reception opened the gala and showcased some world-class silent auction items, one of which was an exquisite porcelain vase from the Franz Collection (see photo). Following the exhibition viewing, guests gathered in the museum’s central, tree-lined courtyard, where the Panda Restaurant Group offered a traditional 10-course Chinese repast. It was delicious! Gorgeous Lynn Liou, publisher of Phoenix International Magazine, was the perfect mistress of ceremonies, looking absolutely regal in her scarlet gown. Among those thanked were the exhibition’s major donors, who included Mary and John Tu, Angela and Jim Hsu, China Southern Airlines, Panda Restaurant Group, Van Cleef & Arpels, The James Irvine Foundation, East West Bank, and the City of Santa Ana. Also recognized were the gala’s Honorary Chairs – Alain Bernard, Van Cleef & Arpels President/CEO Americas, and Edward Roski, Majestic Realty President and Chairman. And, not to be left out were the dedicated gala co-chairs, all elegantly attired, who included D. Diane Anderson, Elizabeth An, Mei-Yen Chang, Angela Hsu, and Britt Meyer. Who wouldn’t want this dynamic quintet on your team? Add Anne Shih to the mix, and you are rockin’! The evening segued into dancing, with music provided by Wayne Foster Entertainment and Papa Foster at his signature white grand piano. A cadre of singers entertained with passion and talent, among them Jason Cropp, who took my breath away with his rendition of John Legend’s “All of Me.” Make a beeline to see “China’s Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui” before it closes on March 15th. For museum info on days and hours, visit bowers.org.com. Bowers5-01 Bowers2-01Bowers1-01Bowers3-01Bowers4-01Bowers6-01Bowers7-01

SPIN’s Masquerade Ball Great Fun for a Good Cause

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Joining me at SPIN's Masquerade Gala was its Executive Director Jean Wegener

Joining me at SPIN’s Masquerade Gala was its Executive Director Jean Wegener

I’m always impressed hearing about how effective Serving People in Need (SPIN) is in giving a hand up to those in our society who are down and out and literally on the streets, in many cases. SPIN’s Jean Wegener, who has served as its executive director almost since its founding in 1987, has been the lady making it happen.

SPIN’s annual fall fundraiser, held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, featured a masquerade theme this year, which drew 300 guests, many of whom got into the spirit wearing masks. Masks were also available for purchase, if they so desired.

Once again, respected Daily Pilot columnist Bruce Cook and Balboa Bay Club’s Board of Governors Chairman John Wortmann shared master of ceremonies’ responsibilities, mixing in the right amount of humor and earnestness in describing the nonprofit’s mission of assisting low-income and homeless people with financial assistance for housing costs, through a network of comprehensive support services.

One such gentleman, former SPIN client, “Jose,” spoke in glowing terms of his experience. “SPIN saved my life,” he said. “They saved my family and kept us together. We had lost our home and were living in our car. SPIN helped us find an apartment and gave me counseling in order to turn things around.” He also spoke glowingly of Wegener. Don’t miss the close-up photo of Jose and his wife at the gala. Everyone cheered their amazing turnaround.

The delicious four-course Italian feast was orchestrated by the resort’s Executive Chef Manfred Lassahn and celebrity guest chef Antonio Cagnolo, of Antonello Ristorante fame. Commencing with a delicious bibb lettuce salad and followed by a mouthwatering retolo di’ pasta second course (one of my favorite dishes at Antonello) and an entree of braised short ribs, the dessert course was a classic Italian tiramisu. It was one of the best meals I’ve had at a charity event in the past year!

When it came time for the financial appeal, it was announced that a longtime supportive SPIN couple, who chose to be anonymous, was offering $250,000 in the form of a match. Wortmann and Cook, assisted by the ever-enthusiastic Melanie Salata Fitch, announced donors as hands were raised at the different giving levels. Funds were also raised from a silent auction created and organized by Kim Frazier, with assistance from Michele Mullen. Not quite there, the staff later took several weeks to raise the balance needed to make the final gift $500,000. Pretty amazing for the little charity that could!

Among SPIN’s generous donors are Soogie and Don Kang, Elizabeth An and the An Family Foundation, Julia and George Argyros and the Argyros Family Foundation, Kim and Dick Crawford, Melanie and Ed Fitch, Peggy and Frank Listi, Angela and David Lee, Heidi and Joe Heffington, Karen and Dick Nichol, Joan Smart and Edward Rimpau, Jr., and Mary Lou and Wayne Shattuck.

The best news about SPIN is that 92% of the funds raised directly benefit SPIN’s clients and 92% of the clients have achieved self-sufficiency at program’s end and have maintained self-sufficiency. Here, Here!

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Laura’s House Celebrates 20 Years!

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Joining me at the Laura's House 20th Anniversary "Shall We Dance" gala was its dynamic Executive Director Margaret Bayston

Joining me at the Laura’s House 20th Anniversary “Shall We Dance” gala was its dynamic Executive Director Margaret Bayston

Margaret Bayston has done a remarkable job leading Laura’s House. She credits her staff, volunteers and supporters for the nonprofit’s success, but her leadership as executive director has made it all possible. When I saw her at the Laura’s House 20th Anniversary “Shall We Dance” Gala at the Balboa Bay Resort, she told me that Laura’s House has served more than 4,000 women and children in our Emergency Shelter and nearly 50,000 individuals since our inception. That’s impressive, but she cautioned, “There are still 250,000 individuals in Orange County today who are impacted by domestic violence.”

In typical fashion, after gala chair Laura Khouri welcomed everyone and introduced Bayston, the passionate leader singled out some volunteers who she said were instrumental in the growth of Laura’s House. Those asked to stand and be recognized included Kay Hockema, Mary Bentley, Courtney Winzeler, and Frank Murray.

Mistress of ceremonies and NBC4 Southern California reporter and four-time Emmy nominee Hetty Chang announced that the gala’s Honorary Event Chair and Laura’s House advocate Donna Pickup was unable to attend and introduced a video with Pickup voicing her commitment to the nonprofit. Bayston and Khouri then presented the Laura’s House Crystal Heart Awards. First up was 18-year supporter Haskell & White LLP, led by Managing Partner Wayne Pinnell, who has served has board chairman many times and spearheaded valuable initiatives for the nonprofit. “It’s been a terrific organization to be involved with,” Pinnell said.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP was presented the nonprofit’s first-ever Legal Leader Award for its 10 years of “tremendous commitment in assisting our clients,” as Bayston put it. She credited Managing Partner Jeff Thomas and Chris Pitet with developing domestic violence training to prepare attorneys at Gibson Dunn and other law firms to do pro bono work with Laura’s House clients. Standout attorneys mentioned were Heather Hearne, Lauren Friedman, Doug Levin, Dustin May, and Adam Brauner.

Following an impactful Laura’s House video, a shelter graduate named Tory shared her emotional story. After suffering through a marriage with a man who demanded total control of her life, with physical abuse and demeaning public and private verbal altercations the norm, Tory made the decision to leave with her two autistic children on December 13, 2012. “Laura’s House gave us an immediate safety net,” she said, “with therapy, legal support and any resource we needed.” Tory closed, saying, “Laura’s House brought me from a place of brokeness to a new life free of oppression.”

Special guests George and Julia Argyros were in attendance and following Tory’s testimony, Julia addressed the assemblage, saying that they had intended donating $500,000 through the Argyros Family Foundation before they came, but after hearing Tory’s story, they decided to donate $1 million. “We want Laura’s House to assist even more women,” she said. It was a euphoric moment all-round!

Joe Matthews led the Rebuild A Life portion of the program, which raised money for vital services the nonprofit provides. It was announced that Anne MacPherson from the Joe MacPherson Foundation would match the first $100,000 raised, resulting in $225,000 raised for the cause.

With the more than generous donations made by the Argyros’s and MacPherson’s and many others, the resulting net proceeds reached nearly $1.4 million for the nonprofit’s mission of ending the cycle of abuse in the lives of women and their families. All that was left was to dance the night away with the Sensation Showband leading the way!

Selected photos by Ann Chatillon

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Global Genes’ Gala Touches Hearts

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Joining me at Global Genes' Third Annual "Tribute to Champions of Hope Gala" were Access Hollywood LIVE's Kit Hoover, left and Access Hollywood's Liz Hernandez

Joining me at Global Genes’ Third Annual “Tribute to Champions of Hope” Gala were Access Hollywood LIVE’s Kit Hoover, left and Access Hollywood’s Liz Hernandez

 

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Access Hollywood LIVE’s Kit Hoover and Access Hollywood’s Liz Hernandez. They were an integral part of Global Genes’ Third Annual “Tribute to Champions of Hope” Gala, which drew more than 600 guests to the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. They were both so friendly, just like talking to your new best friends! And, they knew about the nonprofit’s mission of eliminating the challenges of rare disease and showed a really caring spirit in that regard. It was impressive!

I’ve covered this charity fundraiser for three years now, and I can’t think of another benefit that touches the heart like this one. Aliso Viejo-based Global Genes – Allies in Rare Disease, was founded in 2008 by Nicole Boice, who, after seeing her friends suffer for 2.5 years trying to find a diagnosis for their young son – only to find it was a rare disease that had no treatment or cure – she dropped out of the corporate world to create the nonprofit with the goal of helping families affected by rare disease connect with tools, resources and support. Today, Global Genes is a leading rare disease patient advocacy organization, which unites experts, advocates and patients of all ages to stand together in hope for treatments and cures for the estimated 7,000 rare and genetic diseases that impact approximately 30 million Americans and more than 350 million people worldwide.

It is a daunting task, and Nicole never ceases to amaze me with her energy and compassion for the mission. She and her team gather patients, advocacy leaders, biotech and pharmaceutical executives, healthcare philanthropists, and celebrities every year to raise money for the cause and to get the message out to more and more people.

The gala honored a group of pioneering individuals and corporations committed to making a difference in the lives of millions of patients and their families affected by rare diseases, and it was an impressive group. Dubbed “Champions of Hope,” the honorees included Industry Trailblazer, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chairman of Global Research & Development and Vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline. The award presenters were impressive as well. They were Ilan Ganot, investor, biotech entrepreneur and patient advocate, and Natalie Douglas, CEO of Healthcare at Home and Global Genes board member.

The Collaborations in Advocacy award was presented to The Marfan Foundation, with President/CEO Carolyn Levering accepting, along with Univision’s Sr. VP of Corporate and Community Relations Ivelisse Estrada and Mayo Clinic’s Marfan Clinic Director and MD Juan Bowen. The recipients participated in a unique collaboration in advocacy to Spanish-speaking communities, with Access Hollywood’s Liz Hernandez presenting the honors. Receiving the Collaborations in Science award were M.D., Ph.D and Steering Committee Chair David Altshuler and Executive Director Peter Goodhand from Global Alliance for Genomics and Health. Jeanette McCarthy, Ph.D and Editor-in-Chief of Genome Magazine made the presentation.

The Public Service honoree was Make-A-Wish America, with President/CEO David Williams accepting. Making the presentation was a remarkable young man named Hawken Miller, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The 17-year-old shared how his Make-A-Wish moment with Bill Gates when he was nine years old changed his life (see photo). “I learned from Bill Gates that it is OK to be different and that the main thing in life is to focus on your goals,” he said.

Awards presented the afternoon of the gala were sponsored by Walgreens, with two of the honorees recognized at the gala. Jill Levy-Fisch, President of Save Babies through Screening Foundation, was presented an Advocacy Award, and Chester B. Whitley, M.D. and Ph.D received the Medical Caregiver & Treatment Award for his work at the University of Minnesota’s Departments of Pediatrics and Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology. Presenting was Siren Interactive’s CEO Wendy White, also a Global Genes board member. A video was shown of Stephen Groft, Ph.D, recently retired director of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Rare Diseases Research and last year’s gala Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, presenting an award in Science to Katherine Rauen, Ph.D, University of California Davis, for her work with RASopathies, and to Teen Advocacy award winner Samantha Petersen, founder of SHIFT Scoliosis.

Global Genes’ Executive Director Andrea Epstein introduced two parent advocates, Ann Marie Jennison and Keegan Johnson, who each spoke about living with children with rare diseases. Jennison especially touched hearts as she brought her two darling children, Charlie and Jane, onstage. Both children have the rare disease NGLY1.

The gala entertainment was impressive. Platinum recording artist and American Idol Season 8 winner Kris Allen rocked the house with his platinum-selling single “Live Like You’re Dying,” and “In Time” from his newly released first independent album, while up-and-coming LA-based singing/songwriter Jessie Malay proved her vocal chops and hip hop dance troupe Culture Shock LA brought energy and fun to their performance.

Besides Hernandez and Hoover, who shared a poignant story about her husband’s best friend dying at age 32 of cystic fibrosis, other celebrities included Eileen Grubba (Sons of Anarchy, CSI, The Closer), Carmen Argenziano (House and CSI), Cody Longo (Nick at Nite Show “Hollywood Heights”), and Michael Fishman (D.J. Connor on Roseanne TV Series), whose wife Jennifer has a rare kidney disease.

Boice gave a loving tribute to her late friend Nicole Adrian, who she said was an inspiration in her fight against an aggressive form of breast cancer and was a warrior for rare diseases through efforts with her son’s disorder called Krabbe disease. “Her spirit will live on, giving people the strength to stay in the fight,” Boice said.

I have to tell you, the ballroom decor was a knock-out with bluebell flower table linens interspersed with wooden farm house tables, along with living flowers and plants, pieces of driftwood and oodles of candlelight in decorative pottery. I loved the tiny plants encased in teardrop glass ornaments suspended from above. Danielle Staffari’s company, With Fresh Eyes, was responsible for the transformation.

The more than $500,000 in net proceeds raised at this year’s gala will benefit Global Genes’ educational programs, as well as its innovative Undiagnosed Patient Program. Major sponsors of the 2014 “Tribute to Champions of Hope” gala included Title Sponsor, Walgreens, along with Alexion, Retrophin, Sciensus, Pfizer, Shire, Genzyme, BIO, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, BioMarin, Vidara, Novartis, Goldman Sachs, Siren Interactive and Recordati Rare Diseases, among many others.

Guests departed with a jar of seeds in the shape of hearts, as a symbol of the hope and love that will grow to support those in the incredible fight against rare disease.

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