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.



Crystal Cove Alliance’s Seaside Soiree a Delight!


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Joining me at Crystal Cove Alliance's 12th Annual Gala, "Back to the Bluff," was the nonprofit's Founder and Director of External Affairs Laura Davick

Joining me at Crystal Cove Alliance’s 12th Annual Gala, “Back to the Bluff,” was the nonprofit’s Founder and Director of External Affairs Laura Davick

There wouldn’t be a Crystal Cove Alliance without Laura Davick. She founded CCA, the official nonprofit partner of Crystal Cove State Park, in 1999. After spending summers as a child with her family in the cottages along the sand, she was determined to stop a planned luxury resort from overtaking the area, so she rescued the historic site and initiated one of the most public-private partnership models in the history of the California State Park system. And, of course, that wasn’t enough for this enlightened lady. She is determined to stay involved with CCA until all the historic cottages are renovated and made available to the public for getaways at the beach (so far, CCA has raised enough money to restore 29 of the 46 historic beachfront cottages).

The gala was to be “Back to the Beach” this year – the gala theme – but, unfortunately, Hurricane Marie’s 20+foot waves took away six feet of sand, and it was “Back to the Bluff” instead. Even so, it was a lovely setting very close to the waves on a warm, late summer night, with the sold-out event attracting nearly 400 guests taking to heart the suggestion of ‘resort attire.’ I thought Beth K. Shields won the prize for the best resort dress. She looked fabulous – see her photo.

As the sun was slowly setting, guests enjoyed cocktails (loved the “Locally-grown Jalapeño Skinny Margarita!“) and hors d’oeuvres presented by Montage Laguna Beach, while perusing a very tempting silent auction. You could bid on upscale wines, wonderful oil paintings of the historic cottages, sports items, dining offerings, travel opportunities and even a Mermaid’s Birthday Party for 12 centered around a book called “Crystal’s Cove” mermaid book, written by Carol Robinson.

Dinner was in a most unusual topless tent, which was open to the beautiful star-filled night sky, with images of the iconic cottages splashed on the tent’s walls. The delicious three-course feast was catered by the gala’s Title Sponsor, The Resort at Pelican Hill, and orchestrated by its Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Dubray. Davick, in her welcoming remarks acknowledged the resort’s longtime partnership and introduced its much-loved Managing Director Giuseppe Lama. She thanked all the gala underwriters and sponsors, in particular, Tourbillon Omega, who was listed as the gala’s “Exclusive Jewelry and Watch Sponsor.” Omega’s US President Gregory Swift and South Coast Plaza’s Tourbillon Boutique Manager Aimee Richter were present.

Davick cut to the chase by stating the nonprofit’s passionate commitment to its mission of restoration, conservation and education. As to restoration, Davick said, “For the past two years, we have been working on plans and permits and the necessary tools that we need from State Parks to successfully launch the restoration of the final 17 cottages.” Concerning education, she said, Crystal Cove is now a laboratory for developing innovative, education programs. Already established is the Berns Environment Study Loop, an off-shore underwater park, and, the newest program, the Citizen Science Cruises, which last year hosted 2,000 students. Overall, Crystal Cove serves more than 30,000 K-12 students each year, a fact that Crystal Cove’s President/CEO Harry Helling stated later in the evening. Pretty impressive! And, finally, conservation. Davick stated, “We want to study and better understand not just the impacts on our environment here at Crystal Cove, but to apply what is learned here to better protect our oceans and what little open space that we have left in California.”

Live auction auctioneer DawnMarie Kotsonis stirred the pot with her fun interaction with guests to encourage bidding on some awesome auction items. How about an exclusive three-night stay for six people in Cottage #14, or what they call the “South Beach Suite?” It sold for $3,500! Other prizes prompting some fierce bidding included several Montage offerings at Montage Laguna Beach, Montage Kapalua Bay and Montage Deer Valley. There was also a two-night stay in a villa at Pelican Hill Resort, a Passage West2 Luxury Yacht excursion, which sold twice at $10,000, and a stunning Omega Ladymatic timepiece and dinner for 12 at the Tourbillon Boutique.

The Beach Toys band enticed guests to the dance floor, performing a lot of The Beach Boys’ songs. Spirits were high! And, when all was said and done, more than $300,000 was raised for Crystal Cove Alliance. As Davick so succinctly put it, “It’s a place to find solace and quality of life for future generations. We’ve come a long way in 15 years!” Here! Here!


Pacific Symphony Celebrates Maestro St. Clair’s 25th Year!


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Joining me at the Pacific Symphony's opening night celebration honoring Maestro Carl St. Clair's 25th Anniversary year as Music Director

Joining me at Pacific Symphony’s opening night celebration honoring Maestro Carl St. Clair’s 25th Anniversary as Music Director is the Maestro himself

I remember when Carl St. Clair had dark hair. That was 25 years ago when the youthful maestro began his journey with the Pacific Symphony. He still looks youthful, but that thatch of dark hair has turned white along the way. I mention this because I attended the opening night of the symphony’s 25th anniversary with Carl at its helm. And, what a 25 years it has been!

The Pacific Symphony, now in its 36th year, has a rich history in that it is the largest orchestra formed in the U.S. in the last 50 years and is recognized as an outstanding ensemble, both on the national and international scene, as well as in Orange County. That is thanks to Carl, his amazing talent and his passion to make sure the orchestra’s future is preserved. As Carl said at the opening night pre-concert party at The Westin South Coast Plaza, “It has been an incredible honor to be the artistic conscience of the Pacific Symphony.”

The gala festivities, held at the Westin’s poolside Terrace Pavilion, drew 360 black-tie attired guests to celebrate the maestro’s 25-year tenure, or as the tag line read: “Carl St. Clair: 25 Years on a Journey of Illumination.” Queuing up early on were Ellie and Michael Gordon, who elected to underwrite acclaimed violist Joshua Bell’s four Orange County appearances, including his performance for the gala evening. South Coast Plaza, represented by its Director of Community Relations Kathryn Cenci, was the Presenting Sponsor, and Jaguar Land Rover Aston Martin Newport Beach was the gala’s Platinum Sponsor.

Along with the silver, black and white decor, the dining area featured an exhibition of historical photos commemorating Carl’s career and the individuals who made an impact on him (see the photo of the youthful maestro with dark hair). Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte welcomed everyone and thanked, in particular, the Gordons, Ron Hanson, Chair of the 25th Anniversary Steering Committee, Catherine and Jim Emmi for their $2 million commitment to the symphony, Pacific Chorale’s John Alexander, who has partnered with Carl and the symphony for years, the symphony’s Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutierrez and its Principal Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman, and the symphony musicians, many of whom were attending the dinner.

Kudos were also extended to Board Chair Mike Kerr, the symphony’s Board of Directors and Board of Counselors, and the many arts partners attending – USC’s Thornton School of Music and Glorya Kaufman School of Dance Dean Rob Cutieta, Segerstrom Center for the Arts President Terry Dwyer, Philharmonic Society of Orange County’s new President and Artistic Director John Mangum, Pacific Chorale President/CEO Elizabeth Pearson, National Symphony of Costa Rica Executive Director Guillermo Madriz (Carl is Music Director of the symphony), Chapman University President Jim Doti, Cal State Fullerton’s President Mildred Garcia, and UC Irvine’s new Chancellor Howard Gilman. And, not to be overlooked, Forsyte introduced and thanked the gala co-chairs, Susan Anderson, Suzanne Chonette, Janice Johnson, and Janice Smith. Unfortunately, due to recent surgeries, only Chonette and Smith attended. Everyone was delighted to hear later that the effort had netted more than $150,000 for the symphony’s artistic and education programs.

Forsyte saved the best for last. He thanked who he called the “First Family of Pacific Symphony,” the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom family, who have been major underwriters of the symphony’s classical series for 14 seasons. The children of Hal and Jeanette attending included Ted and Rae Segerstrom and Susie and Steve Perry. Sally Segerstrom and Sandy Segerstrom Daniels were unable to attend.

Forsyte shared that Carl has invited dear colleagues with whom he has partnered over the years to be a part of his 25th year with the symphony. He introduced two of them, who were a part of the symphony’s season opener – violin virtuoso Joshua Bell and Christopher Rouse, one of America’s pre-eminent composers. The program notes said that Rouse was a mentor to Carl at the University of Michigan.

Guests walked to the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for the concert, which featured a wonderful opener, John Williams’ Sound the Bells! It was Williams who introduced Carl to the Pacific Symphony all those years ago. Rouse’s beautifully composed Supplica followed, which was a West Coast Premiere for the orchestra. Bell’s virtuosity was evident in his performance of Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra. Following intermission, the symphony shone in Richard Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome and Maurice Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe (absolutely sumptuous!).

Following the performance, gala guests were invited back to the Westin for champagne and dessert. It was a delightful time spent with St. Clair, Rouse and Bell, with all of them joyfully mingling with the crowd. I always enjoy speaking with Susan St. Clair, Carl’s beautiful wife, who he lauded, saying, “These 25 years are an incredible chapter in my life and for 20 or those years my wife Susan has been there.” Their bond is wonderful to witness.

I think it’s appropriate to close with Forsyte’s comments about the season. “We enter this milestone year with joy and anticipation of an incredible season,” he said, “which includes artists of the greatest stature, an orchestra setting the stage on fire with its commitment and virtuosity…and a conductor whose passion and intensity are only outshone by his tenderness and warmth.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! Here’s to a fabulous year for this great symphony, Orange County’s own! Here, Here!PacificSymphony1-01PacificSymphony2-01PacificSymphony3-01PacificSymphony4-01PacificSymphony5-01PacificSymphony6-01

Costa Mesa Firemen and CHOC Kids Delight!


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Joining me at Bloomingdale's, South Coast Plaza, for the Costa Mesa Firefighter Fashion Show & Shopping Extravaganza were CHOC Children's Glass Slipper Guild event co-chairs Amy Wilcox and Amanda Kenning and President Natalie Barberi

Joining me at Bloomingdale’s, South Coast Plaza, for the Costa Mesa Firefighter Fashion Show & Shopping Extravaganza were, from left, CHOC Children’s Glass Slipper Guild event co-chairs Amy Wilcox and Amanda Kenning, Bloomingdale’s Public Relations Manager Jaime Strong, and Glass Slipper Guild President Natalie Barberi

Are those kids cute or what?! I attended the Costa Mesa Firefighter Fashion Show & Shopping Fundraiser benefiting CHOC Children’s Glass Slipper Guild recently and was blown away. Hosted and sponsored by Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza, the children in the fashion show were all former CHOC patients, and they were adorable! Of course, the firefighters were the “hunks” you would expect, but you hardly looked at them (sorry, guys!) with those darling kids on the runway.

Held at the Bloomingdale’s store, General Manager Jim Murphy welcomed the 200 guests, many of them parents of the children and, of course, Glass Slipper Guild members. Murphy said it was the store’s third annual fashion show with the Costa Mesa Fire Department and CHOC children. He gave a shout out to Costa Mesa Fire Chief Dan Stefano. Several of the firefighters and CHOC kids had traveled to Fox’s Good Day LA studios the day before with the store’s Public Relations Manager Jaime Strong to talk about the event and model fall fashions from Bloomingdale’s.

Murphy introduced Mike Faherty, who together with his twin brother Alex, recently launched the Faherty Brand, a beach lifestyle line. The firemen in the first five photos are wearing Faherty fashions. I’ve also included a photo of the huge showcase of Faherty fashions and lifestyle items featured just outside Bloomingdale’s in the parking lot that day.

Following the fashion show, Murphy introduced Glass Slipper Guild President Natalie Barberi and the event co-chairs from the guild, Amy Wilcox and Amanda Kenning. Murphy proudly announced that Bloomingdale’s was giving the guild a $3,000 donation, and that 10% of the sales from the event would be donated to the guild in support of CHOC Children’s Hospital, the only nonprofit hospital in Orange County devoted exclusively to the health and well being of children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Nancy Lueck, Bloomingdale’s Regional Public Relations Director, made the presentation with Murphy.

Then, it was off to shopping and refreshments for guild members provided by the every-generous retailer! Kudos to the Costa Mesa Fire Department and their firemen for giving their time for such a noble effort and to Bloomingdale’s Jaime Strong for coordinating the entire endeavor!

Aside: I ran into my good friend Sally Crockett, who was at the show with her son Jason Early and his wife Nicole. Their son Beck, who is Sally’s grandson, is a former CHOC patient and was in the fashion show. He’s the one with the fireman’s helmet on in the blue shirt with black vest looking adorable. Beck is also in a photo with his sister Elise. So cute!

Selected photos by Vivian Best/Getty Images


Chapman Lecture Hall Named for Fritzie Williams


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Fritzie Williams, standing with me outside the Fritzie G. Williams Lecture Hall, named in her honor at Chapman University's Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Fritzie Williams, standing with me outside the Fritzie G. Williams Lecture Hall, named in her honor at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law

I was introduced to Fritzie Williams through our mutual membership in Chapman University’s major support group Women of Chapman. And, it wasn’t long before I found out she was a Capricorn, born on the very same day, January 14th. That fact cemented our friendship, and we’ve been friends ever since.

As well as I thought I knew her, I did not know about Fritzie’s marriage to the dynamic Frank Williams. Frank passed away in 1981, but that was many years before I met her. I found out about Frank by attending the naming of the Fritzie G. Williams Lecture Hall at Chapman’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law. Having earned his bachelor’s degree of the University of Missouri and his law degree from the Yale Law School, Frank was a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and, later, engaged in more than 100 combat missions in the Korean War, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After he and Fritzie moved to Orange County in 1958, Frank became a superb trial lawyer and skilled administrator who rose through the ranks to become Orange County’s Deputy Public Defender. Highly respected throughout the state, he was elected in 1978 to serve as president of the California Public Defenders Association. Following Frank’s death, Fritzie wanted to honor him, so she chose to donate $250,000 to the Chapman University School of Law to establish and endow the Frank L. Williams, Jr. Professorship in Criminal Law. It was the first endowed professorship at the university’s nascent law school.

And, so it was that Fritzie recently elected to give another gift to the Dale E. Fowler School of Law, as it is now called. Her $1 million gift was reciprocated by the naming of the Fritzie G. Williams Lecture Hall, and, under the direction of the school’s amazing dean Tom Campbell, a reception and dinner was given in her honor. Campbell, reviewing Fritzie’s largesse, said at the dedication and unveiling of Fritzie’s portrait and plaque in the newly-named lecture hall, “At a time when there was no ABA- approved law school in Orange County, who comes along but Fritzie Williams, who wanted to honor her deceased husband. She could have given the money to Frank’s alma mater, Yale University, but she decided to give it to Chapman, showing that she believed in us. She gave us confidence when we had little more than a dream.”

Chapman University President Jim Doti, another huge fan of Fritzie’s, said of the effervescent lady, “She has what I call verve, spirit and charisma. She brightens any room.” He recognized Fritzie’s longtime companion, Al Kersten, as being a great support for her.

At the dinner, which followed in a separate room, Campbell introduced Chapman Law Professor Scott Howe, who currently holds the Frank L. Williams endowed chair, and presented Fritzie with a replica of the lecture hall portrait and plaque (see photo), much to her delight. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the talented guitarist, Adam Borecki, who entertained throughout dinner. He is a recent graduate of Chapman’s College of Performing Arts. 

In closing, may I say that everyone loves Fritzie. You can’t help it! She always has that dazzling smile at the ready and makes you feel so special when she talks with you. I feel so fortunate to have met her and look forward to celebrating many more January 14th birthdays together. Here’s to you, Fritzie, my dear, sweet, larger-than-life friend!

Selected photos by John Saade


Costume Gala Great Success for DiscoveryCube!


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Joining me at Discovery Cube's Sherlock Homes-themed gala were, from left, Jillyn and Ted Verdon and Linda White-Peters

Joining me at Discovery Cube’s Sherlock Holmes-themed gala at Montage Laguna Beach were, from left, Jillyn and Ted Verdon and Linda White-Peters

The crowd at DiscoveryCube (formerly Discovery Science Center) loves to dress in costume at their annual gala, and this year’s theme, “Science in the Shadows,” was tied to the museum’s upcoming “The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes,” set to open June, 2015. The invitation’s attire suggestion was “Sleuth Chic” or “Steampuck” (combining Victoria era motifs with futuristic technology), and, as you can see from the photos, guests took it to heart. I’ve never seen so many Victorian/Sherlock/Punk ladies and gents except in a Sherlock Holmes television special, and even though I didn’t dress the part, I loved it!

My featured photo is with three people, who I really think the world of. They have supported the Discovery Science Center for years. I first met Linda White-Peters, seated right in the photo, in the early ’90s, when she was Director of UCI’s Women’s Opportunity Center. She moved up the ladder to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Relations, where she headed the CEO Roundtable’s special events, alumni relations and annual giving, growing the “wild bunch,” as she called them, from 20 to 80 members. In 2004, Linda accepted a job at Chapman University as the Director of Development for the university’s up-and-coming film school, later named Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. She was responsible for raising $42 million to build Marion Knott Studios, which opened in 2006. Then, Joe Adams at Discovery Science Center started calling, and the rest is history. Linda has been with DSC since 2007 as VP of Development, launching a capital campaign in 2010 for the museum’s expansion, which has so far generated $11 million. Since the first of the year, the very successful fundraiser has pulled back to a semi-retired position, so she and her sweet Ross can enjoy their time together in Newport Beach and Palm Desert. As to the couple in the photo, they are Jillyn and Ted Verdon, who I met through Linda because wherever Linda goes, they follow and support in a big way with their time and treasure. They, along with Linda (and Ross too), are the finest people you will ever meet. Seriously!

The gala, held at Montage Laguna Beach, drew 300 guests to the resort’s grassy lawn overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific for some light-hearted “schmoozing” and a chance to gather clues to solve the mystery of who stole the DiscoveryCube’s National Medal, when it took place and where they stole it from. It was great fun!

Dinner, awards and live auction were held in the resort’s main ballroom, where Joe Adams, President of DiscoveryCube and CEO of Discovery Science Foundation, welcomed everyone and introduced the boards of DiscoveryCube OC and Discovery Cube LA (more about this later). Cheryll and Richard Ruszat, gala co-chairs for the second year running, thanked gala sponsors (in particular Presenting Sponsors Montessori Schools of Irvine, ROHL, Standard Investment Chartered, Inc., and VitaTech International, Inc.), underwriters and their gala committee before Adams reclaimed the podium to talk about the Cube’s and Foundation’s new era. “As you know, we are here at the Montage instead of at the Cube in Santa Ana because we are in the midst of construction and expansion set to open next spring,” Adams shared. “Next year’s gala will be back home for all of us!”

Adams called the Cube’s Board Chairman and Boeing Company exec Rick Baily to the stage to help present the 2014 Arnold O. Beckman awards. The first award was presented to SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, formerly Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union, represented by its current President/CEO Bill Cheney and past President/CEO Rudy Hanley. “SchoolsFirst was one of Discovery Cube’s founding supporters and made the first capital gift 16 years ago,” Baily said. “And, today, their support continues with another capital gift to Orange County and support of the new “SchoolsFirst Teacher Resource Center” in Los Angeles.” Adams presented the other Beckman award to longtime supporters Julie and Tom McDorman, who he said have given their time, invested resources and served as dedicated ambassadors of the Discovery Cube’s brand and culture. “Both Julie and Tom are founding members of the INNOVATORS and have generously supported the capital campaign and played an integral role in the success of Discovery Cube’s expansion over the last decade,” Adams said.

Following dinner, Adams spoke about the Discovery Science Foundation’s expansion from one site to two, which will serve more than 1 million people in 2015-16 in science proficiency, environmental stewardship and healthy living across Southern California. “The new LA Cube opens this November,” Adams said, “and our own OC expansion, doubling our size, opens next spring!” Discovery Cube LA’s recently appointed Executive Director Kafi Blumenfield and board member Wendy Greuel, former LA City Controller and current candidate for California’s 33rd Congressional District, spoke about carrying the dream into Los Angeles.

A darling Sherlock Holmes skit performed by a group of professional actors preceded the live auction, led by auctioneer Brandon Valdez. The tempting items included a private VIP evening for 50 guests at the OC Cube during the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition, an Hawaiian golf getaway, a GMC Cadillac golf cart, dinner for 12 at Manassero Farms with Chef John Ledbetter, a molecular gastronomy cooking session with Montage Pastry Chef Julie Brown, a stay-cation at Montage, a men’s Corum luxury timepiece, pearl and diamond earrings from Black, Starr & Frost, and, the hot one, a one-year reserved parking space at the OC Cube. Jim Peterson must really like it because he also won it last year! Jim and Sheila Peterson also won the seven-night vacation for 15 people at Chateau St. Philippe in the French Alps for $16,000. Very generous Cube supporters, those Petersons!

There was a real incentive to bid this year in the Fund-A-Need auction, which gave a complimentary pair of $100 Oakley Frogskins Black Sunglasses to the first 100 bidders. Bid cards were flying! I saw one lady bid three different times to get three pairs!

Elizabeth Boyd won the National Medal mystery and dinner for two at a Dinner Detective show, and $360,000 was netted for benefiting science education. By the way, did you know that DiscoveryCube OC remains #1 in attendance per square foot and #3 in educational outreach in the country? Now, isn’t that cool?!

Cool Aside: Pixie Hearn from Cinnabar, Inc, who builds the Cube’s exhibits, said she spent $30 for her outfit (she’s standing alone in a rust/ivory outfit). She had the Victorian gown, bought the corset and top on Amazon and the trim and metal accents at Joanne’s. I was impressed! Photos courtesy of Ann & Rick Chatillon DSC1-01DSC2-01DSC3-01DSC4-01DSC5-01DSC6-01

Arnold Name Graces Stage at Vanguard University


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Joining me are Dixie and Ed Arnold, who were recognized by Vanguard University for their phenomenal support. It was announced at a reception in their honor that the university's Lyceum Theater stage was named in their honor.

Joining me are Dixie and Ed Arnold, who were recognized by Vanguard University for their phenomenal support. It was announced at a reception in their honor that the university’s Lyceum Theater stage was named for them.

I wouldn’t have missed attending the special tribute reception at Vanguard University for two of my favorite people, Ed and Dixie Arnold. Little did I know, however, I would also be attending the opening night of a knock-your-socks off musical revue at the university’s Lyceum Theater, but more about that later.

There just aren’t two sweeter people than Ed and Dixie Arnold. I’ve known them for 30 years, and they have never changed. Dixie has been in education for 38 years as a teacher and principal and the last 12 years (after she retired!) at Vanguard as Associate Professor and Chair of Liberal Studies. “I fell in love with the university the minute I walked on campus,” Dixie said at a recent reception in she and Ed’s honor at Vanguard. Ed, retired television news and sports anchor for KTLA, KABC and KOCE, has given his time at no charge as emcee and auctioneer for charity events throughout the county ever since I’ve known him. He even emceed my 60th birthday party for 120 friends! And, he loves Vanguard too!

The reception at Vanguard’s Cafeteria Patio drew 100 guests, many of them the Arnold’s close friends and family. Dixie and Ed spoke about their love for Vanguard. A recent example regarded Vanguard men’s basketball team, who won the 2014 NAIA National Championship. The team needed new uniforms but, because of recent cutbacks, the school could not afford them. Dixie bought the team the uniforms. “I have such joy knowing that I can affect the students lives in a positive way to show we care,” she said. Ed continued, “We just love the kids at the university, and the people, from the president on down, are fabulous.”

Justin McIntee, Associate VP for Development and Campaign Management, welcomed everyone and introduced Theater Department Chair Sue Berkompas, who talked about the upcoming theater season and the season’s kick-off production of The Beat Goes On. Vanguard President Dr. Mike Beals shared the Arnold’s areas of support at the university: Theatre – season ticket holders; Athletics – behind the bench at every single basketball game – both Dixie and Ed sported a reminder of the teams national championship, Ed with a championship ring and Dixie with a pendant (“Ed’s not shy with the refs,” Mike joked); Music (Fantasia Christmas Show) – faithful supporters of the Christmas program for many years; Student Scholarships – care deeply about supporting students financially.

Following a musical tribute to the Arnolds by students Dustin and Michelle Laemmlen, who sang George Gershwin’s “‘S’ Wonderful,” and Caitlin Theobald, who performed the famous hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” Berkompas and Beals announced that the stage in the Lyceum Theater would be known as the Ed & Dixie Arnold Stage in their honor. They both beamed, with Ed calling out their family – son Dean, his wife Rachel, and grandsons Jake and Luke.

Then, it was on to the 180-seat Lyceum Theater to see the world premiere of The Beat Goes On, and what a beat it was! The musical revue, created and directed by the extremely talented Vanda Eggington, was a rock ‘n’ roll road trip through the last half of the 20th Century, with stops in small town malt shops, sunny California beaches, mirror ball disco balls, and MTV extravaganzas. The 14-member cast never stopped moving! They sang and danced throughout the two-hour show, and it was impressive. The songs took you back to the times you remember hearing them, and the use of video throughout the decades to show what was happening at the time, was very effective.

The students really knocked it out of the park and were well cast. Kudos to narrators Vincent Catalina and Kelsey Coleman, whose comedic turns were hilarious, and to the rest of the very talented cast – Ben-David Alencar, Winter Bassett, Drew Bradford, Josiah Dominguez, Ashley Elizabeth, Ian Jenkins, Kristina Leopold (also assistant director), Ryanna Marsh, Joshua David Martin, Alexandria Miller, Mark Austin Nunn, and Bretlyn Schmitt (also the brilliant choreographer).  

The show runs September 26-28 and October 3-5 at 8:00pm. There are also 2:00pm Saturday matinees. Ticket prices are $17 for general admission and $14 for seniors and children. Visit or call the box office at 714-668-6145. You won’t be disappointed!


Portola Riders Honored at Mission Gala


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Joining me at the Mission San Juan Capistrano's "Romance of the Mission" gala was Portola Riders' President Tony Gregory II, left, and Gilbert Aguirre, one of the either original Portola Riders

Joining me at the Mission San Juan Capistrano’s “Romance of the Mission” gala was Portola Riders’ President Tony Gregory II, left, and Gilbert Aguirre, one of the original eight Portola Riders

I had heard of the Portola Riders, but I didn’t really know their history until I recently attended the annual Mission San Juan Capistrano’s “Romance of the Mission” gala, where the group was honored. Held at what is known as “The Jewel of the Missions,” I spoke with Tony Gregory II, president of El Viaje de Portola, who said the  Portolas were 300 active riders, who have been riding the foothills of old California to support the Mission since 1964. “The Mission is the pillar of what our town is all about and as Portola riders, we enjoy supporting many of its preservation projects,” he said. The 55 or 60 riders attending were easily identified by their classy hats with their black-tie attire, and I loved the Forster Family Saddle displayed at the gala in tribute to what the Portolas call “The Cowboy Way.”

The social hour for the sold-out 480-guest affair in the Mission’s lush front gardens precluded the concert in the ruins of the Great Stone Church. Prior to featured Broadway artist David Burnham’s performance, Mission San Juan Capistrano’s Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence Adams welcomed everyone, commemorating the 11 years since the first concert in the Great Stone Church. “Back then,” she said, “hosting an event like this evening was a dream and a risk, and today it is a tradition.” She recognized two stalwart Mission advocates, Reverend Monsignor J. Michael McKiernan, Pastor, Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, and Monsignor Arthur A. Holquin, Pastor & Rector Emeritus

Mission Preservation Foundation Board President George O’Connell asked the board members to stand and be recognized and asked Gregory to come to the stage for the El Viaje de Portola honor. Joking, he said, “It has been an honor to have driven the trails with the Portola riders.” The talented Burnham then took the stage with his music director Mark Vogel and a two-piece band to perform a group of Broadway classics, including a not-so-Broadway rendition of the beloved, When the Swallows Come Back from Capistrano.” Special guest Christina Saffran joined Burnham in the classic duet, “Our Prayer,” made famous by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. The duo sang it beautifully.

Guests were invited to the candlelight dinner in the Central Courtyard, with the 237-year bell ringing tradition by official Mission bell ringer Nathan Banda (see photo) announcing the call to dine. The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, once again partnered with the Mission to orchestrate a marvelous four-course dinner (especially loved the Marcona Almond Praline and Chocolate Torte! – see photo), accompanied by superb wine pairings from Fetzer Vineyards. It was wonderful in every way, and the tables richly displayed the most beautiful colored florals accented with twinkling pillars and votives. There was even a nod to the Portolas on every table with a vivid red dahlia in a smoky beer bottle or apothecary jar. Kudos to Floral Occasions of San Juan Capistrano, who put it together. And, I mustn’t forget to recognize the amazing Marco Tulio Trio, who entertained with their shimmering guitar music throughout dinner.

During a dinner break, Adams asked the gala committee to approach the courtyard stage, where she lauded their efforts, especially the leadership of the Mission’s Barb Beier, Director of Development. Other committee members included Diana Arrigoni, Jodie Cerru, Georgianna Hales, Wendy Mulvihill, Michelle Sukut, Mozelle Sukut, Tracie Sullivan, Madeline Swinden, and Marianne Taylor. The winners of the three opportunity prizes were announced, which included an 18k white gold diamond bracelet, courtesy of the Roberto Coin Boutique in Fashion Island.

The courtyard setting was magical, as it always is. That’s why the Mission gala is one of my favorite charity events to attend. Enjoying such a lovely evening in such an historic setting is really breathtaking, knowing that the Mission was founded in 1776 and so much of significance has transpired on those sacred grounds. The foundation works diligently to conserve and preserve this wonderful place. To that end, an estimated $260,000 (a record!) was netted to continue to preserve the historic venue, including Phase Two of the Sala Preservation Project. Guests departed with two darling embossed leather coasters in a nod to the Portolas!

Selected photos courtesy of Lisa Renee Photography




“Flavors of Orange County” a Gourmet Extravaganza!


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Joining me at the American Liver Foundation's 11th Annual "Flavors of Orange County" gala were, from left, Kathy Hamilton, Gary Dudley, and Noel Hamilton

Joining me at the American Liver Foundation’s 11th Annual “Flavors of Orange County” gala were, from left, Kathy Hamilton, Gary Dudley, and Noel Hamilton

I attended the inaugural “Flavors of Orange County” gala benefiting the American Liver Foundation in 2004, and I was totally blown away by the concept. I had never attended a food event where each guest was seated at one of Orange County’s top chef’s tables, to have him or her orchestrate a fabulous repast for the guests at the table. It was an innovative idea, and since I’m a “foodie” at heart, I was in!

It was a memorable event for me for another reason. The gala chair, Kathy Hamilton, whom I met for the first time at the gala, and I became fast friends from that time forward. She and her husband Noel, an executive with Wells Fargo, have sponsored the gala through the bank for many years. I also met Gary Dudley at the inaugural “Flavors,” and was so impressed with him. He was one of the leaders of ALF and really behind the inaugural “Flavors” benefit. He was also in need of a liver transplant and was on the transplant list. He hasn’t had the transplant but through new strides in treatment, he is doing remarkably well and is currently serving as ALF’s Board of Directors Chair.

This year’s “Flavors” returned once again to the Fairmont Newport Beach’s alfresco Bamboo Garden, where each of the chefs presided tableside creating their food magic for each table of 10 to 15 guests. What was really impressive was that the participating chefs, their staffs and the restaurants donated their time, expertise and food costs for the occasion. To that end, it was later announced that $90,000 was raised in net proceeds for the prevention, treatment and cure of hepatitis and other liver diseases through research, education and advocacy. Here! Here!

Mistress of ceremonies Jamie Gwen, looking fabulous in an off-white dress with black trim, presided over the gourmet soiree following a festive cocktail reception/silent auction sponsored by Casamigos Tequila and American Harvest Vodka. Gwen, best known for her national weekly syndicated radio show heard locally on KFWB News Talk 980 and on L.A.’s KTLA Channel 5 morning show, introduced the chefs as they made their way to the stage.

Participating chefs included Host Chef, Brian Doherty, Executive Chef at Fairmont Newport Beach, who was later presented ALF’s “Culinary Visionary Award” (presented to Gwen last year), Casey Overton (The Loft at Montage Laguna Beach), Cody Storts (Nieuport 17), Seakyeong Kim (Charlie Palmer at Bloomgindale’s, South Coast Plaza), Vincent Lesage and Rachel Haggstrom and pastry chef Brooke Martin (Balboa Bay Resort), Marcel St. Pierre (Steakhouse 55, Disneyland Hotel), Shaun Gethin (Bijou French Bistro, La Jolla), Justin Miller (Pizzeria Ortica), Joshua Severson (Selanne Steak Tavern), John Ledbetter (personal chef for any occasion), and Aaron Anderson (Harlow’s).

I was seated at the Bijou French Bistro table, which was hosted by sponsor Wells Fargo and the Hamiltons. Chef Gethin did not disappoint! The five-course menu featured a yummy Oeufs Mayonnaise, Butter-Poached Lobster with roasted corn, the best Coq Au Van I’ve ever tasted (!), and a dessert for the record books – a salted carmel pot de creme with pillows of meringue on top accompanied by two buttery shortbread cookies (see photo). It was sensational!

Dr. Bruce Runyon, Director of Hepatology, UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, gave a glowing introduction of the evening’s “Healthcare Visionary,” Dr. John Hoefs, Professor Emeritus of Medicine, UC Irvine’s School of Medicine’s Liver Specialty Center. Dr. Hoefs extolled research. “It has given us the liver transplant and the treatments that cure Hepatitis C and the suppression of Hepatitis B,” he said. “The research of today becomes the superior clinical care of tomorrow.” One of Dr. Hoef’s patients, Barbara Payne, was the gala’s “Liver Champion.” Payne, who received one of the first liver transplants in 1987 and is a survivor today, lauded ALF for their support throughout.

Auctioneer Joel Burlingame officiated over a live auction packed with fabulous dinner offerings. Michael Cho grabbed two of the auction items – a dinner for four at Bijou and a five-course dinner with wine pairings at Charlie Palmer, while Wayne Gross of Greenberg Gross LLP in Costa Mesa won dinner for 8 at Teemu Salanne’s Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach. It was announced that Teemu would attend and that the Anaheim Duck’s Stanley Cup trophy from winning the NHL championship in 2006 would be there as well. As a matter of fact, the trophy was at the Selanne Steak Tavern table that night. See Gross grinning from ear to ear beside it!

All in all, it was a great night for a great cause. Kudos to ALF for launching a one-of-a-kind gourmet food experience that the nonprofit has copied around the country to raise funds for the charity and its efforts to treat and cure liver disease.

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“Monkey Magic” Great Fun!


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Joining me at the Santa Ana Zoo's 22nd Annual "Zoofari Magic" benefit are its Director, Kent Yamaguchi, and Friends of Santa Ana Zoo's Executive Director Cathi Decker

Joining me at the Santa Ana Zoo’s 22nd Annual “Zoofari Magic” benefit are its Director, Kent Yamaguchi, and Friends of Santa Ana Zoo’s Executive Director Cathi Decker

Did you know that the Santa Ana Zoo is required to keep at least 50 monkeys on site at the 62-year-old zoo? That was the requirement of J.E. Prentice, the man who gave 12 acres of his citrus ranch for a park and a zoo. He was a lover of monkeys, and that’s why to this day no less than 50 monkeys are always at the zoo. Actually, the number is 62 at the moment, so everyone is happy!

The two people in charge at the zoo are its Director, Kent Yamaguchi, and Friends of Santa Ana Zoo’s (the zoo’s nonprofit arm) Executive Director Cathi Decker. Both of them are passionate about their work. Kent was initially hired as the summer zoo instructor 27 years ago and worked his way up to director five years ago. Cathi began her zoo experience as a volunteer in 1996, was hired as special events coordinator in 2000 and executive director in 2005. “It’s my passion,” she said at the zoo’s recent annual fundraiser. “It’s all about the animals for me.”

As a matter of fact, it was all about the monkeys at the zoo’s 22nd annual “Zoofari” this year. The event, always held at the zoo, was themed “Monkey Magic,” and there was a “50 Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” signature cocktail to prove it! And, there were also four baby monkeys, recently born, for guests to view. Many of the 320 guests took the train, the Zoofari Express Railroad, to see the animals during cocktail time. There were also volunteers with zoo animals greeting guests as they arrived with a Derby goat, an armadillo named “Bonito” and a special rooster from France with five toes on each foot named “Liberace.”

I always love this event because the zoo supporters love to dress up – either black tie or safari, and it’s great fun. Former two-term board president and current board member Curtis Farrell wore black tie with top hat and animal print bow tie, while carrying a box of Monkey Mints for his table guests (see photo). And, longtime supporter Debbie Newmeyer, in keeping with the magic theme, was dressed as “Madame Mystique” and was reading fortunes with her black orb (see her photo with her family). And speaking of magic, an honest-to-goodness magician named Frank Thurston was performing some awesome card tricks!

Dinner on the back lawn was magical, especially when the sun dropped from the sky and the stars and moon shimmered down. Bobby and Lori Babcock of R.W.B. Party Props donated a slew of great props to coincide with the monkey and magic themes, and Parties by Panache, the event’s longtime caterer, served a delicious dinner, with cute names for the different courses like the “Three Wise Monkeys Honey and Port Braised Short Ribs.”

Board President David Exline welcomed everyone, and retired television news and sports anchor Ed Arnold was the consummate host. Decker introduced the honorees, who included Thanh and Ginger Nguyen and their two daughters Tana Everhart and Ginna Nguyen. It was thanks to the Nguyen family, owners of the Knowlwood chain of restaurants, that a Knowlwood Cafe was opened at the Santa Ana Zoo in 2010. Decker also recognized Scott Weldy, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), the zoo’s veterinarian and renowned animal specialist since 2002, for his expertise and vast experience in caring for the zoo’s animals. Decker also lauded Jon “Rip” Ribble for his 22 years of service to the zoo. Not only as a past board president and current board member, but also for serving as a volunteer engineer (driver) every Tuesday on the Zoofari Express. He looked quite dapper in black tie with matching leopard tie and cummerbund!

Glen Fladeboe, owner of and auctioneer for Fladeboe Auctions, one of the largest benefit auction companies in the Midwest, was right on point in urging and conjoling guests to bid on the live auction items. The “hot” one was the GoPro HER03+ Black Edition Camera and Phantom 2 Quadcopter – in other words, a state-of-the-art camera and drone. Donated by board member Howard Hall, he demonstrated how the camera attaches to the drone and flies around taking photos (see photo), and guests were mesmerized! Advisory Board members Allen and Jennifer Goh, longtime Zoo supporters, were the lucky winners. Another lucky couple, Diana and Larry Grummett, longtime zoo supporters who were married at the zoo, won the opportunity prize and the chance to name the zoo’s new male squirrel monkey. They decided to name him “Henry” after Diana’s father, who recently passed away.

The Groove Factory band brought everyone to the dance floor – and this group likes to dance! Decker later said the fundraiser had netted nearly $80,000, which will in part purchase a $20,000 digital x-ray machine, with $10,000 raised in the auction towards that goal.

PssstZoo Director Kent Yamaguchi announced that the zoo was bringing in two endangered and rare Brazilian baby ocelots in late October  – a male and female from two different zoos –  to breed them. He also said the zoo had begun construction on its ocelot exhibit, just in time for the little ones! And, by the way, the zoo has on average 250,000 visitors annually. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?!

Hamilton Hall photo, courtesy of Hayden Hall



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