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Joining me for Girl Scouts of Orange County's Fifth Annual "Celebrate Leadership" benefit were, from left,

Joining me for Girl Scouts of Orange County’s Fifth Annual “Celebrate Leadership” benefit were, from left, GSOC’s CEO Nancy Nygren and honorees Betty Mower Potalivo, Lynn Jolliffe, Dr. Mildred Garcia, Joann Leatherby, Sandra Hutchens, and Jane Buchan.

I am always taken with the Girl Scouts – literally, Girl Scouts who live in Orange County – who participate in the “Celebrate Leadership” fundraiser that Girl Scouts of Orange County hosts annually. The fifth annual benefit, held at the Island Hotel in November, paired six of the top Girl Scouts (one as young as age six) with six extraordinary local female leaders, all Girl Scout alumnae. It was truly a night to cherish!

The event drew nearly 350 guests to the benefit, where a festive silent auction reception proved great fun with speciality drinks featuring names from some of the iconic Girl Scout cookies, including “Lemonade Coconut” margaritas and “Carmel DeLite” martinis.

Girl Scouts of Orange County CEO Nancy Nygren welcomed everyone and asked former Girl Scouts and Girl Scouts volunteers to stand (there are 22,000 active Girl Scouts in Orange County and 10,000 volunteers to guide and support them). “When we think of Girl Scouts,” she said, “we often envision girls selling cookies in front of Ralphs. And, while our Girl Scouts are selling those highly addictive Thin Mints and Caramel Delights, they are developing vital leadership skills that are essential for success in the 21st Century – like goal setting, decision making, money management, business ethics, and people skills.” Nygen lauded the thousands of dedicated volunteers who help girls develop those skills.

Nygren also acknowledged GSOC’s Board Chair and 2010 “Celebrate Leadership” honoree Julie Miller Phipps, a top executive with Kaiser Permanente, who was leaving in a few days to become president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia. The popular leader received a huge round of applause.

Nygren introduced event co-chairs Donna Giordano, Ralphs Grocery Company President, and Shannon Kennedy, Regional President for BNY Mellon Wealth Management, who thanked the event sponsors, with Kennedy asking the current and past “Celebrate Leadership” honorees to stand and be acknowledged, including Giordano, who was honored in 2013.

Following a fun live auction, overseen by auctioneer Victor Gonzalez, my favorite part of the event commenced, with the introduction of each honoree with their Girl Scout partners. After the pairs met, each girl created a special art canvas that represented her connection to the honoree, and she presented it that evening. I must tell you that each of the Girl Scouts’ remarks about how Girl Scouts has made a difference in their lives, as well as their remarks to their honorees were completely memorized. It blew me away!

Giordano and 2010 honoree Shirley Quackenbush shared the introductions. The first honoree, Joann Leatherby, President of the Leatherby Family Foundation, was paired with Girl Scout Brownie Gracie Finley, who said of the art piece she presented to Leatherby, “I painted a library because we both love learning and books – and you even have your own library at Chapman University!” – Chapman’s Leatherby Libraries. “Each book title I drew has words that you shared are important to you, like passion and persistence. These words are important to me, too.” (are you teary-eyed yet?!)

Next up was honoree Jane Buchan, CEO of PAAMCO, a leading hedge fund investment firm, where one-third of the partners are women. Her partner, Girl Scout Senior Sharleen Loh, thanked Buchan for being a role model for the next generation of female leaders. “I know that with self-confidence, I can pursue my passion and become a great leader like you. Thank you for showing me that there’s nothing that can stop me from achieving my dreams.”

Dr. Mildred Garcia, President of Cal State Fullerton, made history as the first Latina president in the California State University system. Girl Scout Junior Alexandra Vasquez said of Garcia, “You are my role model, Dr. Garcia. Thank you for showing me that I have the power to shape my own future.”

Berry Mower Potalivo, Region President of Northern Trust, was accompanied by Girl Scout Daisy Kassidy Lee, who, holding the canvas she created for Potalivo, said, “I know that you put a lot of love into everything you do. At work, you listen to people you help and make their money grow. In my painting, the watering can shows your love watering a Girl Scout Daisy. Thank you for showing me that helping others is an important part of being a leader.”

Girl Scout Ambassador Christina Meyer, partner to Lynn Jolliffe, Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Ingram Micro, declared Joliffe a role model, saying, “The canvas I created for you illustrates the strengths you possess: your passion for learning, your fearlessness in the face of new challenges and your drive to help others.”

Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens was the final honoree, and her partner, Girl Scout Cadette Moira Clark, said to her, “Sheriff Hutchens, you are such an inspiration to me. You are committed to standing up for what’s right and helping others. Girl Scouts has shown me that I don’t need to be afraid to stand up for myself and others.”

Together with sponsor, auction and tickets monies, as well as “Fund the Mission” pledges, more than $270,000 was realized in net proceeds. Guests departed with a beautiful Keepsake Calendar, which showcased the honorees and their Girl Scout partners, and a box of Thin Mints! Loved it!

Selected photos by Laurel Hungerford