At Ease, Bloomingdale's, Garys, Gentlemen's Haberdashery, George O'Connell, Heart of Jesus Retreat Center, Melanie Fitch, men's fashion show for charity, Ortega Tack & Feed, Paul Salada, Peter Buffa, Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, St. Croix, Tommy Bahama, Tony Moiso
I was pleasantly surprised to see the Gentlemen’s Haberdashery fundraiser in support of the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center in Santa Ana return after a five-year hiatus. Staunch supporter Tony Moiso, who with his wife Melinda co-chaired the benefit many times during its 30-year run, offered the reason for its return. “We wanted to introduce the Sisters to the next generation so that they can continue their legacy,” Tony offered.
Leading up to the “Fashion with a Heart” luncheon and runway fashion show featuring 40 men from the community at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, an event tradition continued featuring a four-man color guard from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, who presented the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance. Tony, who by the way, is President/CEO of Rancho Mission Viejo, and his co-chair George O’Connell, President/CEO of O’Connell Landscape Maintenance, took the stage to thank the many event underwriters. Tony recalled the benefit’s beginnings with the support of people I remember with great fondness, who are now no longer with us - fashion expert Kitty Leslie, who coordinated the fashion show, event founders General Tom and Emma Jean Riley, supporter Carl’s Jr.’s founder Carl Karcher, and Tony’s uncle and Rancho Mission Viejo icon Richard O’Neill. Tony lauded his 96-year-old mother Alice O’Neill Avery for her love and support over the years and when he introduced her to the gathering, applause abounded. She is a beautiful woman!
O’Connell introduced Sister Jane Stafford, Sister General of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, who operate the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center, and said of her, “Sister Jane has been a big inspiration to our family for many years.” Sister Jane introduced the Sacred Heart Kids’ Club and teen staff, who along with the 2nd grade class from the Blessed Sacrament School in Westminster, entertained everyone by singing several songs. Two children gave heartfelt testimonials as to the influence of the Sacred Heart Sisters and their ministries, and when the kids later delivered hand-written thank-you cards to each of the 485 guests, it was a touching moment (see Maggie’s photo with her card).
Next came the fashion show with men of all ages and walks of life strutting their stuff wearing clothes from At Ease, Bloomingdale’s, Garys, St. Croix, Tommy Bahama, and even some western duds from Freddy Love’s Ortega Tack & Feed in San Juan Capistrano. Returning after the hiatus to once again commentate the show were two very funny people - Malanie Fitch of Irrelevant Week fame and Peter Buffa, former mayor of Costa Mesa. With Fitch and Buffa’s hilarious repartee and hoots, whistles and hollers accompanying the show, Antonello’s Antonio Cagnolo walked the runway with his darling 10-month old baby girl, Bill Watts sported western attire with his handy lasso and a troika of men from Mater Dei High School walked the walk, including Father Steve Sallott, head football coach Bruce Rollinson and principal Patrick Murphy. Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s President (principal) Paul Carey was also in the mix.
Bluewater Grill’s Jim Ulcickas (“Jimmy U” for short) loved the cowboy look, as did Gary Urban and former Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates. The Ritz Restaurant’s Ray Jacobi and Olympic water polo star Jeremy Lester wore duds from Garys and O’Connell’s sons Kevin and Brady smiled their way through wearing fashions from Bloomingdale’s, as did the handsome Anthony Curci. Discovery Science Center’s Joe Adams walked for At Ease and Eric Sellas and Marc Lamkin sported hunting clothes from KUIU. U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Grant Williams took the runway in his “official” attire and received heartfelt applause.
The fun event realized net proceeds of more than $230,000 for the Sacred Heart Center, which welcomes 12,000 to 14,000 attendees annually
Fun Aside: Haberdashery supporter Paul Salada, who modeled in the show for many years, told me about the time he arrived to model and his clothes weren’t in the garment bag, “so I wore the garment bag,” he quipped (see photo of Salada holding the picture of him wearing the garment bag). That’s Paul!!
Selected photos courtesy of Carla Rhea and Cindy Marie