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National Philanthropy Day, Orange County Chapter's 2013 honorees

National Philanthropy Day-Orange County’s 2013 honorees: First Row, from left, Victoria Collins (Outstanding Philanthropist), Amanda Fowler (Edwards Lifesciences Corporation for Outstanding Large Corporation), Natalie Cernius (Outstanding Youth), Karen Raab (Chemers Gallery for Outstanding Small Corporation), Jeff Scheibner (Roosters Foundation of OC for Outstanding Philanthropic Group); Second Row, from left: Margie Wakeham (Outstanding Founder for Families Forward), Mary Lynn Coffee (Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser), Rick Smetanka and Wayne Pinnell (Haskell & White LLP for Outstanding Mid-Size Corporation). Recipients of the 25th Anniversary Sponsor Award, Eric Spitz and Aaron Kushner, co-owners of the OC Register, are not pictured.

National Philanthropy Day is celebrated every year in all 50 states and three countries – Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom – but, did you know that the charity and recognition event was founded by an Orange County man – philanthropist and attorney Doug Freeman. It took Freeman five years to ultimately have then-President Ronald Reagan sign a proclamation on Nov. 15, 1986 declaring National Philanthropy Day be officially recognized. NPD has been celebrated on a day during the last two weeks of November from that year forward. “I’m really thrilled that the intention to say ‘thank you’ is still being honored,” Freeman said at the celebration held at the Hyatt Regency Irvine last November.

The “Giving is Always in Season”-themed affair drew 900 attendees to the 28th Annual National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon, with the Young Americans song and dance team giving a spirited performance as guests were seated. The event was produced by the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals with two of its members, Sheri Nazaroff and Kristine Peters, co-chairing the affair, and PBS SoCal’s Maria Hall-Brown and PBS SoCal’s and Orange County Business Journal’s Rick Reiff serving as mistress and master of ceremonies, respectively. Each honoree was lauded in a video tribute and presented a piece of art glass in the shape of a heart, created by Laguna Beach artist John Barber.

Tim Bauer, Association of Fundraising Professionals of Orange County Chapter President, welcomed everyone and stated that AFP International, the largest association of professionals fundraisers in the world, has 30,000 members in more than 230 chapters worldwide. “Since the beginning of AFP in 1960,” Bauer said, “it has helped fundraisers to generate more than $1 Trillion in charitable gifts and donations, and APF international members raise more than $1 Billion every year for charitable causes.”

Bauer presented the first award, the Outstanding Youth honor, to 17-year-old Natalie Cernius, who founded the Friday Night Club, where high school students could earn community service hours by spending quality, social time with teens with special needs. For the first time, AFP-OC designated a $2,500 award to Cernius for the charity of her choice, which she named as United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County. AFP-OC also presented Cernius with a $750 check for her continuing development and education.

PBS President & CEO Mel Rogers presented the Outstanding Philanthropic Group award to the Roosters Foundation of Orange County, with President Jeff Scheibner accepting. Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries Dean, Charlene Baldwin, presented the Outstanding Small Corporation award to Tustin-based Chemers Gallery and its owner Karen Raab. Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser went to Mary Lynn Coffee for her work with THINK Together (Teaching, Helping, Inspiring, Nurturing Kids Together), which grew from serving 2,000 Orange County children in under-resourced communities in 2003 to more than 100,000 children statewide.

Doug Freeman presented the 25th Anniversary Sponsor Award to the Orange County Register for their 25 years of sponsorship of the event. Accepting was Freedom Communications’ President and Register co-owner Eric Spitz and Freedom Communications’ CEO and Register co-owner Aaron Kushner. Freeman lauded the Register for its Gift Cheque Program in issuing $12.4 million in gift cheques to their subscribers to gift their favorite charities to redeem for advertising. “Our mission is to support and build Orange County,” Spitz said.

Haskell & White LLP was honored as Outstanding Mid-Size Corporation, with Managing Partner Wayne Pinnell and Partner-in-Charge of Audit and Business Advisory Services Group Rick Smetanka. Edwards Lifesciences Corporation was the recipient of the Outstanding Large Corporation award, with Vice President of Tax, Ed Tarle accepting. Margie Wakeham, founder and executive director of Families Forward, accepted the award for Outstanding Founder. Presenter Shelley Hoss of the Orange County Community Foundation called Wakeham a “force of nature and an Orange County institution.” Victoria Collins, who was honored as Outstanding Philanthropist, was presented the honor by Human Options Co-Founder and Executive Director Vivian Clecak, who said of her, “Victoria is the essence of philanthropy.”

Joann Leatherby, 2012 NPD-OC’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, spoke on the “Heart of a Philanthropist,” saying, “Philanthropists are people making a difference by identifying the problem, seeing a solution, and doing whatever it takes to bring it to fruition.” Her remarks summed up the lives of the honorees and many of the people in the ballroom. Orange County is fortunate to have so many philanthropists willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen!

The luncheon realized net proceeds of $35,000, which was targeted for AFP-OC’s programs to promote the ethical advancement of philanthropy in the community.

Selected photos by Carla Rhea and Robert Rooks

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