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Joining me at the Festival of Children Foundation's Opening Night Party was its Founder and Executive Director Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, who is also a Managing Partner of South Coast Plaza

Joining me at the Festival of Children Foundation’s Opening Night Party was its Founder and Executive Director Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, who is also a Managing Partner of South Coast Plaza

What a difference 10 years makes! Sandy Segerstrom Daniels has a heart for children, and her vision of establishing a foundation that would help improve the lives of  children became a reality with the establishment of the Festival of Children Foundation 10 years ago. A decade later, that dream is a firm reality and has mushroomed into an amazing nonprofit effort.

The Festival of Children Foundation is well established with 190 member charities under its umbrella in Orange County, and, as Daniels stated at a recent celebration of the foundation’s 10th anniversary, “There are 506 children’s charities in every state serving more than two million children.” And, not only that, through the efforts of Daniels and former Orange County Board of Supervisor Tom Wilson, the sixth annual National Child Awareness Month (September) received its sixth consecutive unanimous US Senate approval. Here, Here!

Daniels also stated that the National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador Program, now in its second year, hosted a two-and-a-half day leadership training program in September in Washington, D.C. With one ambassador from each state attending the all-expense paid conference, they also visited Capitol Hill and the office of their home Senator or Congressman to promote their charity and let them know its impact on the lives of children.

Daniels was all-smiles as she welcomed 438 guests to the Festival of Children Foundation’s opening night party at South Coast Plaza’s Garden Terrace. The USO red, white and blue-themed event featured an Andrew Sisters-like trio called Company B singing the famous trio’s signature songs – “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Roll Out the Barrel,” and many more. The group really livened up the evening with their spirit and talent! The food, catered by Someone’s in the Kitchen, also reflected the theme with fried chicken, meatloaf sandwiches, mini hot dogs and sausages, mini chicken pot pies, and apple cobbler on the menu. And, I mustn’t forget the special drink, the “Troop-tini!” (see photo)

The Festival of Children, a month-long, weekend community-wide charity outreach event at South Coast Plaza during the month of September, showcases FOCF member charities and what they offer to children in the community. Daniels encouraged guests to get to know the amazing youth-serving charities and perhaps volunteer to make a difference in the life of a child. The evening’s “Call to Action” theme was an invitation to do just that.

Daniels presented the annual FRED Award (For Really Extraordinary “Do”ers) to Elizabeth Piercy, a recent graduate of Estancia High School in Costa Mesa. At age eight, Piercy was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and has since had 16 surgeries. Along the way, Piercy has knitted 900 hats, with recipients ranging from children at CHOC Children’s Hospital to homeless people and children in Africa. Piercy surprised Daniels with a pink knit hat that she had made just for her. “Many people have helped me,” Piercy said, “and I like to give back.” There was an immediate standing ovation!

More music, cuisine and fun followed, but it was those heartfelt words from Piercey that said it all!

Selected photos from Carla Rhea