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I always wanted to meet Lucy, Lucille Ball, that is. I especially wanted to meet the Lucy that stomped grapes in that hilarious episode from the revered “I Love Lucy” show. Guess what? I met her! Thanks to the Southern California Hospice Foundation’s inaugural Harvest for Hospice Pick-A-Thon at the Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, I met Antonia Valdez, who was a dead ringer for the fast-talking redhead.

I must admit, I didn’t stomp myself, but there were plenty of others who attended the fundraising effort who donned rubber boots and went for it in the name of charity. There was a contingent of TKE frat guys from Cal State Fullerton, who volunteer for the foundation on a regular basis. Other teams had specific names, like Mona’s Brigade, Chapman Panthers and Pick Long & Perspire, to name a few. The latter team won the Team Spirit Award in their cute lavender t-shirts. The 120 people who gathered to pick and stomp grapes had great fun and helped net $32,000 to assist the foundation in serving 480 hospice patients daily.

The hospice foundation’s mission is quite a task, and I have never met anyone more dedicated to a job than the its Executive Director Michelle Wulfestieg. She is truly passionate about the cause. How Michelle arrived at the Southern California Hospice Foundation is a story in itself. After suffering a stroke at age 11, doctors told her the tumor in her brain was inoperable. Then, at age 25, on January 4, 2008, when Michelle suffered a debilitating stroke, the neurosurgeon on call that night at Hoag Hospital was Dr. William Dobkin, who Wulfestieg calls her “angel.” Knowing her chances for survival were slim, Dobkin operated on the tumor, which left Michelle in a coma for eight days. She did revive but couldn’t talk or walk. “I remember coming home bald, wounded and weak and having a hospice employee hold my hand and massage my face through that experience,” Wulfestieg says. “Later, I knew I had to service patients because I truly knew what it was like to be in their shoes.”

Back to the fundraiser, a catered lunch followed the pick and stomp, with Michelle thanking Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery owner Richard Moriarty and Managing Director Justin Myers for their efforts in helping make it a successful effort. The winner of the Lucy Stomp Award with the most grape juice generated from their stomp was Team IT, with each team member receiving a Lucy wine stopper. All pickers who raised $500 or more for the foundation received a premier bottle of Newport Beach Winery wine, and the top three fundraisers were Jessica Dixon, Debbie Dye and Judy Russo. 

I must admit, I departed feeling my Lucy dreams were fulfilled!