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Joining me at Childhelp's Holiday Boutique and Luncheon was its featured speaker and Childhelp graduate Stephanie Canada

Joining me at Childhelp’s Holiday Boutique and Luncheon was its featured speaker and Childhelp graduate Stephanie Canada

It was hard to believe the beautiful young girl standing on the dias at Childhelp’s Annual Holiday Boutique and Luncheon had been through the terrible things she talked about as she told about her life. Stephanie Canada came to Childhelp four years ago, she said, after years of abuse and neglect. Coming from a family of eight, with a mother addicted to cocaine and a father with whom she had no relationship, Stephanie was put in foster care after her mother died in a hotel fire and she lost her dad in 2007. “I still loved her even though she wasn’t the best mom,” she said. The worst was yet to come. Stephanie went to eight foster homes, where she was sexually abused, until one day a social worker took her to the Childhelp Costa Mesa Group Home. “My life changed that day,” Stephanie said. “If it weren’t for that place, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” Along the way, Stephanie met her mentor Diana Miner, a longtime member of Childhelp’s Orange County Chapter, who encouraged her to achieve good grades and to focus on her education. Stephanie graduated high school with top honors and is seeking her license as a radiology technician, while making plans for pursuing a college degree. “I have the world because I was saved,” she concluded.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in The Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel ballroom when Stephanie left the stage. Her message brought Childhelp’s mission home to the sold-out event with its 450 guests, and $176,811 was raised in net proceeds for the cause of helping victims of abuse and neglect, as well as at-risk children through advocacy, prevention, treatment, and community outreach.

The holiday boutique always features wonderful gifts, including one-of-a-kind theme baskets handcrafted by Childhelp members, and the very popular “Santa’s Kitchen” with its tasty homemade confections is always a crowd-pleaser. Also helping the bottom line were the 23 boutique vendors selling jewelry, fashions and many holiday items, while giving a percentage of their sales to Childhelp. Several luxury items were showcased in the opportunity prize drawing, which saw Eve Kornyei Ruffatto win a gorgeous blue Louis Vuitton handbag and Kristina Lee the David Yurman sterling silver necklace and earring set (see their photos). The grand prize drawing, a $2,000 South Coast Plaza shopping spree with a one-year VIP valet parking pass, also brought in the dollars. A very happy guest, Barbara Zilli, won the coveted prize.

Images Salon of Corona del Mar was honored with a special award, thanks to their annual cut-a-thon and its proceeds of $14,225 raised for Childhelp. Since 2002, the salon has raised an impressive $140,000 for the nonprofit. Accepting the honor was Ron, Al, and Michele Perez and Mark McArdel.

Among those helping organize the fundraiser were its co-chairs Joy Whitlock-Estrada and Gina Van Ocker, who jointly thanked their committee, which included Cleo Bluth, Linda Brechtel, Nancy Cardin, Mary Allyn Dexter, Patti Edwards, Gwen Forquer, Jennifer Kite, Michelle Langston, Jill Leone-Glick, Katherine Meredith, Diana Miner, Pam Pharris, Joyce Simon, Shan Vincent, Debra Violette, Nancy Whitlock, and chapter president Kristen James. 

Selected photos by Ann Chatillon

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