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Joining me at The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts' "Spring Celebration: Bet on the Wheels" benefit is Guilds Chair Marilyn McCorkle

Joining me at The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ “Spring Celebration: Bet on the Wheels” benefit is Guilds Chair Marilyn McCorkle

Stuart Winston sat amongst his pile of chips grinning from ear to ear! I’ve known Stuart quite a long time, but I didn’t know he was a first-rate poker player! He was joined by nearly 300 supporters and guests of The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts’  Second Annual “Spring Celebration: Bet on the Wheels” benefit at Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center (formerly the Hyatt Regency Irvine) for an evening of gaming, delish food offerings, a fabulous silent auction and raffle prizes, and continuous musical musings for listening and dancing by the very talented Jet Set Quintet.

The lounge atmosphere was quite inviting, with dining options showcased in the theme of the cuisine around the hotel ballroom. There was an Italian Trattoria with ravioli, pizza, veal marsala, sautéed scallops with black truffle risotto, etc. (loved the red and white checkered table cloths on the dinner tables), an Asian Cafe with edamame, tempera shrimp, teriyaki beef skewers, and handmade sushi, a Gastro Pub with petite grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup (it was delish!), mini lobster & brioche rolls, beef sliders, wedge salad, and Dungeness crab cakes prepared onsite, a Sweet Shoppe with all manner of tempting indulgences, and, finally, a Martini Lounge, offering cosmos and lemon drop martinis to your heart’s content.

Guilds Chair Marilyn McCorkle welcomed the partygoers and introduced and thanked the evening’s co-chairs Amy Larson and Marty Olds. As Marilyn explained, “Just as the roulette wheels turn for our lucky winners, the money raised tonight will help to keep the “wheels” of the school buses turning (“Bet on the Wheels” – get it?), bringing children from around Orange County to performances at the Center.” Together with the event monies, there are 22 Guilds’ chapters raising money for SCFTA throughout the year, making the Guilds’ total fundraising since they were founded in 1978 more than $14.5 million. That is an impressive number!

SCFTA’s President Terry Dwyer followed up with the number of young people reached through the Center’s education programs – more than 6 million! – and read a few heartwarming notes from appreciative partners who were the recipients of the Center’s educational programs.

Mike and Eve Ruffatto, The Guilds’ 2014 honorees, were recognized for their longtime support of SCFTA. “We are celebrating a great couple – philanthropists and volunteers, who give so much back to our community,” McCorkle said. This year, for the first time, The Guilds elected to launch a new tradition and honor a fellow Guilds member for his or her service to the Guilds and the Center. The inaugural “Guilds Inspiration Award” was presented to past Guilds Chair Bev Sandelman. McCorkle chimed, as she presented the award to Sandelman, “Bev, you are an inspiration to all of us.”

Lugano Diamonds owners Moti and Idit Ferder were given a special commendation for their longtime support of the Guilds’ Spring Celebration. The generous couple has provided the top raffle prize for many years, and this year’s $2,550 freshwater pearl necklace, composed of three 65-inch strands, was breathtaking (see photo)! They also continue to present the honorees with a gift. Eve received a gorgeous pair of 18k white gold diamond and South Sea pearl earrings designed by Moti, and Mike’s gift was a set of 18k yellow gold and black diamond cuff links.

The Lugano Diamonds’ drop-dead triple-strand pearl necklace was won by Judy Coulson, with Stuart Winston, who is Vice President of Marketing and Development at Lugano Diamonds, tearing himself away from the poker table to present the pearls (just kidding, Stuart!). Ed Munoz claimed the one-year membership in SCFTA’s Donor Lounge and Center Room, and Marilynn Darling walked away with the coveted $1,000 South Coast Plaza shopping spree and one-year valet pass. The Fund-a-Future live auction, overseen by auctioneer/emcee Jim Nye, helped boost net proceeds to more than $250,000 for The Guilds and the Center, which included a $20,000 gift from arts philanthropist Henry Segerstrom and his lovely wife Elizabeth.

Fun Aside: I spotted former Guilds Chair Gerrie Goodreau sipping a cosmo, wearing a stylish LBD (Little Black Dress) and dripping in pearls. They were the pearls she won at the event several years ago, thanks to the ever-generous Lugano Diamonds. See her photo. She is stunning!

Selected photos by Nick Koon