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Joining me at CASA Orange County's Black & White Ball were, from left, co-chairs Cathy Frandsen, Jeanina Esparza and Lourdes Nark

Joining me at CASA Orange County’s Black & White Ball were, from left, co-chairs Cathy Frandsen, Jeanina Esparza and Lourdes Nark

I always enjoy attending Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County’sCASA for short – Celebration of Children Black & White Ball. It is always a great party and at the same time acknowledges the people who help those children lost in the foster care system. This year’s ball, held once again at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort, was no exception.

More than 550 guests took the dress code to heart with black and white the dominant fashion statement (how can men go wrong in tuxes?!). Stiltwalkers dressed in black-tie attire entertained and Fox News Anchor Christine Devine, who served as the ball’s emcee, dazzled in her stunning gown and top hat. Following the silent auction/cocktail party, guests gathered in the ballroom, where Asher Entertainment showcased a cabaret-style dance team on the black and white check dance floor and guests were seated at either rectangular tables covered in black and white striped linens or round tables in either black or white silk. The white floral cella lily and hydrangea centerpieces, designed by Paul Fenner Floral Design, enchanted as did the sparkling crystal chandeliers covered in black tulle. Linda Young’s Elite OC Productions was later acknowledged for producing the entire affair, from start to finish. Kudos for doing a great job!

CASA’s Chief Development Officer Susan Kirkland recognized and thanked ball chairs Lourdes Nark, Jeanina Esparza and Cathy Frandsen, as well as executive committee co-chairs Wendy Cariello, Nancy Eaton, Soogie Kang, Britt Meyer, Daryl Nelson, Wendy Tenebaum, LeRoy Touchard and Linda Young and their extensive steering committee.

Those honored included Kaiser Permanente as Outstanding Corporation, with Kaiser executive and CASA board member John Stratman accepting the honor, and 20-year CASA volunteer Richard Polakoff received the Outstanding Advocate award for his exemplary work with foster youth. Jon and Carol Demorest were named Children’s Champions as 12-year active supporters of CASA. Carol said of her work as a CASA advocate, “I not only mentored her for 3 1/2 years, but I was able to advocate for her in court. I made a difference in her life, and she certainly made a difference in mine.” Ale, recognized as Outstanding Youth honoree, was lauded for overcoming difficult circumstances to excel in college and give of her time to help others.

Auctioneer Jim Nye launched the live auction by auctioning a glass of tap water for $1,500. A Damiani diamond necklace was scooped up by CASA supporter Elizabeth An for $10,000, while Lourdes Nark bid $11,000 for the Party in a Box, an entire party for 50 planned by Elite OC Productions, and Keiko Sakanoto won the Barbara Bui Fashion Week in Paris for $8,000.

Keynote speaker 18-year-old Darnell J. Cates touched hearts telling his story of being raised by an abusive family in a dangerous environment, which exposed him to gang life at an early age. His life changed when he was adopted at age nine by Mary and Arthur Cates through Christine Divine’s “Wednesday’s Child” adoption segment that airs weekly on Fox. Cates lauded CASA for advocating for his younger brother and sister before they were also adopted by the Cates. An aspiring actor, Cates recently graduated from Los Angeles County High School of the Arts and is moving on to college this fall. “I have purpose, dreams and aspirations,” he stated. “I will be successful.”

Another Wednesday’s Child adoption, Jamal, performed under his hip hop name Nexus at the ball, assisted by Darnell. The dance floor was packed, with the Gig Productions band playing well into the night. The ladies departed with a Jo Malone London fragrance, with net proceeds later tagged at an impressive $600,000.

Selected photos courtesy of Robert Rooks and Teresa Taylor