Austin Nichols, BMW i, Bonnie Lee, Brooke Besikof, Burgess Yachts, Coast Magazine, Dennis Haysbert, Dr. Danni Sun, Eve Kornyei Ruffatto, Galapagos Islands, Hermes Birkin Bag, Jenna Ushkowitz, Julie Anderson-Leonardo, Julie Hill, Karen and Bruce Cahill, Kitchen for Exploring Foods, KOR, Laura Dern, Laura Rohl, Leonardo DiCaprio, Little Mermaid, Liuli Crystal Art, Liuligongfang, Margo Smith, Mark Schenfeld, Michael Aram, Mikimoto, Miranda Crosgrove, Montage Kapalua Bay, National Geographic Ship Endeavor, Nicole Polizois, Nolet's Silver Dry Gin, ocean conservation, Oceana, Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless, Oceana's Board of Governors, Oceana's Ocean Council, Oceana's SeaChange Summer Party, Opus One Winery, Oscar Nunez, Part of Your World, Rachel Harris, Slane Lightburne, Song Saa Resort, St. Margaret's Episcopal School, Ted Danson, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Valarie Van Cleave, Villa Di Sogni
There is not a more generous, philanthropic couple than Bruce and Karen Cahill. After purchasing 2.8 acres of land in the hills of Laguna Beach and building a magnificent 17,800-square-foot mansion, dubbed Villa Di Sogni (House of Dreams), they didn’t just enjoy it themselves and invite friends over for dinner. “Our intention from the beginning was to open our home to charity functions,” Bruce said at Oceana’s Sixth Annual SeaChange Summer Party. “We built the home with that in mind,” he shared. As I learned later, Oceana has been only one of many charity fundraisers held at the auspices estate.
Bruce and Karen warmly greeted the 400 guests who attended the high-profile event, which always attracts a celebrity contingent. This year’s honored guest was none other than Leonardo DiCaprio, known for his passionate stance on ocean conservation. Others attending included the ever-committed ocean preservation advocate and television star Ted Danson, Trophy Wife actor and Allstate Insurance spokesperson Dennis Haysbert, The Fault in Our Stars actress Laura Dern, Glee’s Jenna Ushkowitz, Suits’ Rachel Harris, The Office’s Oscar Nunez, Ray Donovan’s Austin Nichols, and ICarly’s Miranda Crosgrove.
The weather was picture-perfect, with the sun sparkling off the ocean and guests enjoying the breathtaking panoramic views. Chaired once again by the dynamic duo of Valarie Van Cleave and Eve Kornyei Ruffatto, the gals decided that covering the estate’s swimming pool would offer more room for shopping the jam-packed luxury silent auction, and indeed it did. I must say I admire the co-chairs commitment to protecting the world’s oceans as Valarie is Vice Chair of Oceana’s Board of Directors and founder and co-chair of the SeaChange party, while Eve has co-chaired the Summer Party for five of its seven years and serves on Oceana’s Ocean Council. The co-chairs recognized the Cahills for their generosity in offering their home every year since the fundraiser was launched. “They are committed to Oceana’s mission,” Valarie said, “and we couldn’t have done this benefit without them.” The couple was presented a large, beautiful Michael Aram ocean-themed bowl for their generosity.
Danson and Haysbert took turns at the podium before an impressive Oceana video brought the message home and Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless spoke of the future, saying, “With sensible ocean management by 25 nations, we can produce enough food to feed 1 billion people a day forever!” He lauded Leonardo DiCaprio’s longtime support of Oceana and his recent three-year $3 million grant from his foundation. “The grant will fund critical conservation work along the entire eastern Pacific coastline,” he said, “protecting species, and restoring fisheries across a vast stretch of ocean.” DiCaprio said, in accepting a gorgeous custom crystal art piece by Liuli Crystal Art for his support, “I truly believe that saving our oceans is the root problem of our time.”
Dinner, once again catered by the Kitchen for Exploring Foods, was fabulous, with a dessert that knocked my socks off! It was called Chocolate Dulce de Leche with Puddle of Salted Caramel Sauce and Whipped Creme Fraiche. Doesn’t that sound absolutely scrumptious? It was!
The live auction, led by master auctioneer Mark Schenfeld, prompted some competitive bidding for a 2015 BMW i3, a blue (for the ocean) Hermes Birkin Bag, an opulent strand of Mikimoto white South Sea Pearls, a private Opus One Winery tour and chapmpage reception with dinner at The Restaurant at Meadowood, and trips to Maui’s Montage Kapalua Bay resort, Song Saa Resort on a private island in Cambodia, and the magical Galapagos Islands on the National Geographic Ship Endeavor. The piece de resistance was an eight-day voyage to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef on the Hemisphere, the world’s largest luxury catamaran, donated by Burgess, the world’s super-yacht specialists. It sold for $175,000 to DiCaprio. Rachel Harris and Oscar Nunez had great fun passing out stuffed whales to guests pledging money at different levels to round out the “Adopt a Whale” auction, with net proceeds for the entire evening later tallied at $1.2 million. Pretty impressive!
Die-hard partygoers capped the evening dancing under the stars at the Post Party Lounge, with guests departing with an exclusive Michael Aram Ocean Coral Diffuser, courtesy of Bloomingdale’s, Fashion Island, and memories of an amazing evening for a worthy cause. Guests were also given a striking Nautica tote filled with goodies. I especially liked the Liuligongfang carved horse glass pendant and KOR’s “Aura” water holder.
Since the silent and live auctions are always such a strong part of the benefit, I wanted to give credit to the auction committee, led by Slane Lightburne, which included Julie Anderson-Leonardo, Bonnie Lee, Nicole Polizois, Laura Rohl, Margo Smith, Dr. Danni Sun, Karen Cahill, and event co-chairs Van Cleave and Ruffatto. Others making it happen were Chair Emeritus Julie Hill, Media sponsor: Coast Magazine; Co-Presenting Sponsor: BMW i and the Orange County BMW dealers; and Spirit Sponsor: Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin.
Event Highlight: Sixth grader Brooke Besikof from St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano entertained dressed as the Little Mermaid, singing “Part of Your World” from the famous Disney movie. Karen Cahill was responsible for her appearance, as she has donated her time at St. Margaret’s as a professional choreographer for 15 years (see accompanying photos).
Meaningful Quote: The Oceana video’s final quote was, “Save the oceans and feed the world!”
Selected photos by Nick Koon, Ann Chatillon, Ana Gutierrez, and Ryan Miller