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Joining me at CASA of Orange County's Celebration of Children Black & White Ball were its co-chairs Lourdes Nark, left, and Wendy Tenebaum

Joining me at CASA of Orange County’s Celebration of Children Black & White Ball were its co-chairs Lourdes Nark, left, and Wendy Tenebaum

“Every person in this room has the chance to make a difference in the life of a child,” co-chair Wendy Tenebaum said at the Court Appointed Special Advocate’s (CASA) Celebration of Children Black & White Ball at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. Considering that net proceeds reached $780,000, it seemed like everyone contributed towards that goal. This nonprofit is awfully impressive. They specialize in training and supervising community volunteers to mentor and advocate for the most difficult abuse cases in the child welfare system, and CASA of Orange County has been doing it for 29 years.

I must say that the ballroom was lovely, thanks to Linda Young’s Elite OC Productions and Wildflower Linen, who combined gold with the black and white theme to create a very elegant setting. Montage, singers and dancers from Orange County School of the Arts, opened the ball, giving an impressive performance of “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls. Tenebaum and Lourdes Nark, the ball’s co-chairs, welcomed everyone and asked their committee to stand and receive applause for their hard work. The chairs were thanked with lovely bouquets of flowers from CASA of Orange County’s CEO Kathleen O’Neill and Board Chairman Mark Steiman for their efforts.

Every year the ball honors people who have been exemplary in their support of children, and this year I thought it was particularly touching that they recognized the past Children’s Champions from every ball since 1994. Those present included founding CASA board member Bill Steiner, Junior League of Orange County (represented by Jaynine Warner), Anton & Jennifer Segerstrom, Richard & Frances Gadbois III, Fred Port, Gary & Linda Pack, Douglas & Melinda McCrea, Dennis & Susan Leibel, Jim & Sheila Peterson, Ted & Lourdes Nark, and Jon and Carol Demorest.

Fred Port, CASA’s Advisory Board Chair and the ball’s master of ceremonies, has been a mainstay for CASA of Orange County since it was founded 29 years ago. He introduced the ball’s honorees, who included this year’s Children’s Champions, sisters Lisa and Stephanie Argyros. The women, who are known for their support of children’s causes, thanked their parents, Julie and George Argyros, for being their inspiration. “CASA’s volunteer advocates are truly the champions,” Lisa said, in receiving the honor. Larry Wilson was recognized as CASA’s Advocate of the Year for his passion and service through his roles as Court Appointed Special Advocate, Educational Representative and a Family Connections Advocate.

The keynote speakers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a foster parent for years and author of The Language of Flowers, and Supervising Judge of the Harbor Justice Center Douglas Hatchimonji enlightened the 450 guests with their experiences with the foster care system, the traumas and challenges of the children in the system and the life-changing differences a mentor can make in a child’s life. Ty, the evening’s 14-year-old youth speaker and Outstanding Youth recipient, brought the message home as he related his experiences as a foster child and what a difference having a CASA advocate made in his life. “Having a CASA has taught me to believe in myself and my dreams,” he said. “CASA (the nonprofit) gives a voice and hope to foster youth. CASA changes lives! I sure know it changed mine.” Gloria Loring, known for her former role on the long-running soap “Days of Our Lives” and, perhaps, more recently, as the mother of the famous Robin Thicke, completed the tender moment by singing a beautiful arrangement of “Hold the Child.”

The live auction, which followed with auctioneer Jim Nye at the helm, saw trips to Paris Fashion Week, courtesy of Barbara Bui, the 2015 Augusta National, special Angels and Anaheim Ducks packages, and a drop-dead gorgeous 5.62-carat Ceylon sapphire, courtesy of Lugano Diamonds, along with a $5,000 gift certificate towards a setting. The auction highlight was the appearance of Fred Port as Tina Turner (he was the CASA ball’s auctioneer for years and always stepped onstage as the gyrating Turner accompanied by the band playing “Proud Mary”). This year he offered his entire outlandish Tina Turner outfit, including the wig and shoes, for the auction and former Children’s Champion Anton Segerstrom scooped it up for $5,000. I can’t wait to see Anton as Tina Turner!!

Selected photos by Happy Photos

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