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Joining me at the Children's Bureau of Orange County's annual Clambake are its co-chairs, from left, Barbara Eidson, Lori Irving and Sarah Corrigan

Joining me at the Children’s Bureau of Orange County’s annual Clambake are its co-chairs, from left, Barbara Eidson, Lori Irving and Sarah Corrigan

There is nothing I like better than a sumptuous grilled lobster tail with drawn butter. And, thanks to dinner at the Children’s Bureau’s annual Clambake at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, I got it! The Island Hotel catered the fun affair that provided the yummy crustaceans that drew more than 200 guests in beach chic attire to support the child abuse prevention nonprofit.

The venue, overlooking the bay, was the perfect location for the clambake. If you didn’t have the right kind of shoes to walk on the sand, complimentary flip-flops were provided during the cocktail/silent auction hour. The Wine Pull was inviting to the wine lovers, where a guest bought a numbered cork for $50 or three corks for $100 and pulled the corresponding wine(s) valued at $50 or more. Dinner was held on the grassy lawn, and the blue and white checked tablecloths and white lantern centerpieces only added to the ambience, while the band, Ride the Tide, provided a steady selection of Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet fare.

Emcee DawnMarie Kotsonis welcomed everyone and got things started with a fun Heads & Tails game, which had guests who purchased a clamshell necklace choosing either heads or tails over and over until one person was left standing. Lucky Garrick Hollander of Newport Beach walked away with the $300 cash bag! The Clambake co-chairs, Sarah Corrigan, Barbara Eidson and Lori Irving, took turns thanking Presenting Sponsor, The Crean Foundation, their committee, and the 30+ volunteers, who worked the event.

Children’s Bureau President/CEO Alex Morales, a 40-year social worker, who has been in a leadership role at the nonprofit for 25 of those years, recognized businessman and community leader Neal Aton. Morales lauded Aton as a founding member and past president of Children’s Bureau’s Orange County Advisory Board and for his role in helping develop the nonprofit’s two big fundraisers, the Mighty Rubber Ducky Derby and the bureau’s Clambake. “Children’s Bureau is grateful for Neal’s passion, dedication and generosity to Children’s Bureau and families in need,” Morales said. He presented Aton with a beautiful Coach leather portfolio. An appreciative Aton said his friend Lisa Fujimoto introduced him to Children’s Bureau. “It has been my honor to serve over the years,” he said, and then he asked the staff to stand, who he called “unsung heroes.”

Morales introduced JC Ancheta, a mother of three children, who has participated in the bureau’s Infant and Toddler In-Home Programs, “a part of our prevention efforts to educate and provide support to parents who are raising young children,” Morales said. “I’m so grateful to Children’s Bureau,” Ancheta said, “for helping me learn to deal with the stresses of raising three young children and having postpartum depression following the birth of my third child.” She credited her case manager Cindy Morales for encouraging her to stay in the programs. “Without Children’s Bureau support,” Ancheta said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today, working full time, going to school and raising three children.”

Kotsonis doubled as auctioneer in the live auction, with such tempting items as being #1 in the valet line that night, a two-night stay at the Island Hotel in a corner suite with dinner for four at its newly-opened Oak Grill, a week-long stay at the 5-star Pueblo Bonito Rose Resort & Spa in Cabo San Lucas – including airfare, a Las Vegas two-night getaway at the Palms Casino Resort, and a handsome Corum Admiral’s Cup luxury timepiece. Longtime Children’s Bureau supporters Darby and Bill Manclark won the Deer Valley Resort three-night ski package, and four people each paid $1,700 for the Ultimate Cocktail Party for 40 guests, donated by Jonathan Ratter. It was a lucky night for committee member Ashley Duva and husband Mark, who won two of the 14 opportunity prizes, a Black, Starr & Frost ladies watch and a Hi-Time Wine Cellars wine basket and $100 gift certificate.

The evening segued into dancing with Ride the Tide packing the dance floor performing oldies but goodies. Guest favors included a warm, comfy blue blanket (we didn’t it need that night!), courtesy of Windes accounting firm, along with a bottle of Goldwater’s Taste of the Southwest’s Ruby Raspberry Salsa, thanks to committee member Peggy Goldwater Clay. Net proceeds were later calculated at $120,000 to continue funding Children’s Bureau’s child abuse prevention programs in Orange County.

Pssst…the fireside “Make Your Own S’Mores” were a hit!

Selected photos courtesy of Ann Chatillon

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