Aniar Academy of Irish Dance, Anne Kinney, Anthony Kearns, artist Toni Danchik, Cassie Kinney, clean water for Ugandans, Eithne Keegan, Jeff Ditmire, Jeff Trujillo, Larry Dick, Mahatma Gandhi, Michelle Yegsigian, Mission Hospital, New Life at the Water Well, Nick Jordan, OC Register Magazines, Peter Callahan, Pulse Media, The Irish Tenors, Wells of Life, Wells of Life Gala & Auction
I attended Wells of Life’s Second Annual Gala and Auction at Mission Viejo Country Club and found out how powerful one man’s passion for helping others can make a difference. Irishman/American Nick Jordan (I love his brogue!) told me he had raised $600,000 for schools in Uganda when he had the chance to visit the country for the first time in 2008. “It was then that I realized that without fresh water, you won’t have a school because one child dies every 15 seconds due to lack of clean water,” he said. “That moment changed his life. I stopped funding schools and committed to drilling wells.” That was five years ago, and Wells of Life is currently drilling its 100th well in Uganda. Jordan said he was dedicating the rest of his life to raising awareness and funds for the cause. I was truly impressed.
The upbeat fundraiser drew 220 guests, many of them friends of Jordan, and garnered more than $100,000 in net proceeds. Following dinner, Jordan introduced three high school girls, who spoke about forming clubs in their schools to raise monies to fund wells for the Laguna Beach charity. Everything from bake sales and t-shirt sales to car washes and a tennis fundraiser helped fund wells, which costs $6,000 for each well. Those speaking included Katie Altman from Pasadena, Chrissy Cheung from Mission Viejo and Leighton Mauze from San Antonio, Texas.
Auctioneer Larry Dick proved very effective raising money in the live auction by urging, cajoling and just plain threatening. He was really very funny, and the crowd responded positively. An auction highlight was artist Toni Danchik’s painting, “New Life at the Water Well,” which Wells of Life board member Peter Callahan purchased for $4,000. Danchik, who was present, was born and raised in South Africa before coming to the U.S. in 1994. She said, “Africa will always be part of my heartbeat.” Thanks to a $15,000 matching grant in the Fund-A-Well auction, that much was raised and more, thanks to an anonymous donor.
WOL board member Michelle Yegsigian introduced board member Eithne Keegan, who talked about visiting Uganda last year and viewing first-hand the poverty and the need to build wells. “Young girls can’t go to school because they have to walk an average of three miles each day to get water to bring back to their communities,” she said. Keegan, a registered nurse at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, has helped mission efforts all over the world. “She has a heart, a drive and compassion for people,” Yegsigian said. “Eithne exemplifies what Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.'” Jordan presented Keegan with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts.
Jordan told a compelling story about Anne Kinney and her four-year-old daughter Cassie (see their photo). Anne heard about Wells of Life through Jordan and thought it would be an opportunity to inspire her daughter for service. So Cassie held bake sales and sold lemonade and Anne ran marathons and, later, when a corporate sponsor contributed $3,000, mother and daughter were able to fund two wells. One of them was named “Cassie’s Well.” Anne said, “Cassie inspired us all.”
Kudos to the young girl dancers from the Laguna Niguel’s Aniar Academy of Irish Dance, who entertained with great enthusiasm and expertise and also to Jeff Trujillo of Pulse Media, who produced a compelling and compassionate Wells of Life video for the benefit. Media Sponsor, OC Register Magazines, represented by Associate Publisher of Freedom Specialty Media Jeff Ditmire, was also given a shout out.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening! Jordan told me next year’s fundraiser is already scheduled for Oct. 25, with world-renowned Irish tenor Anthony Kearns performing. He is a founding member of The Irish Tenors, so stay tuned…