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161 ch copyHow could you not be touched when Erin Runnion speaks about her daughter Samantha’s murder 10 years ago and how she has picked up the pieces of her life to launch The Joyful Child Foundation to prevent such horrors happening to other children? Honored with Childhelp Orange County’s “Children’s Friend Award” at the nonprofit’s 27th annual “Through the Eyes of a Child” luncheon at the Newport Beach Marriott, Runnion lauded Childhelp’s work, saying, “There is a cycle of violence we have a responsibility to stop, and Childhelp does that.”

Another highlight of the benefit held at the Newport Beach Marriott was Maks Chmerkovskiy. You remember the Ukranian/American dance champion and pro on “Dancing with the Stars,” right? Maks is a new Childhelp Ambassador and, as such, spoke to the 360 rapt attendees about his passion for the nonprofit. “There is a purpose to celebrity,” Maks said, “and now that I’ve been introduced to Childhelp, I’m glad to help.”

Still another event highlight was the South Coast Plaza-produced-and-presented runway fashion show. Spring fashions for men and women were showcased by Brooks Brothers, DKNY, Diane von Furstenberg, Escada, Faconnable, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. John, and Ted Baker. And, in the reception, models wearing the latest Bally shoes and handbags were featured on raised platforms. South Coast Plaza’s Director of Community Relations Kathryn Cenci, who coordinated the fashion show, was thanked for her efforts with a beautiful bouquet of flowers by the luncheon co-chairs.

Childhelp national board member and event donor chair Patti Edwards spoke about the state of child abuse in the country. “Five children are dying each day from child abuse and every 10 seconds there is a report of abuse,” she said. Edwards said Childhelp, now in its 54th year, has the only national child abuse 24-hour hotline in the country and along with its residential treatment centers, children’s advocacy centers, therapeutic foster care, group homes, and special villages in Beaumont, California and Culpeper County Virginia for the worst cases, “is making a difference in the lives of abused, neglected and abandoned children. However,” she continued, “We need you now more than ever.”

It looks like guests stepped up to the plate because net proceeds of $250,000 were later reported for the effort. Among those making it happen were Childhelp’s Orange County President, Kristen James, and the event committee, which included Nancy Cardin, Jacquie Casey, Mary Allyn Dexter, Joy Estrada, Jennifer Kite, Katherine Meredith, Diana Miner, Dale San Filipo, Joyce Simon, Gina Van Ocker, Debra Violette, Nancy Whitlock, and Shan Womack.

A delighted longtime Childhelp supporter Perla Pergis won the coveted South Coast Plaza $2,500 shopping spree and one-year valet pass.

Selected photos from Ann Chatillon and fashion photos from Donato Sardella