Officially, fall may have still been six days away, but the evening had a crisp Southern California autumn feel to it as close to 200 supporters took to the terrace of Media Studio North to raise funds for the Burbank-based Kids' Community Dental Clinic this past Saturday.
Presenting its annual Casino Paradise fundraiser, that virtually transports attendees to the gaming room of a tropical island casino, the clinic's executive director, Dale Morimizu Gorman, board President, Thomas Kissinger, board members, clinic staff, and volunteer dentists greeted supporters to the high-rolling night and encouraged them to tangle with "Lady Luck" while enjoying tropical cocktails, dinner and entertainment.
After perusing a silent auction and settling in with their game and croupier of choice, guests were formally welcomed by Kissinger.
"Tonight is a joyous occasion to celebrate what our clinic does for the children and families we serve," Kissinger said. "But this year, there is a cloud over us as we mourn the loss of one of our founding members and the man I succeeded as board president, Dr. Richard Marias, who passed away last month."
Offering up an emotional tribute, Kissinger lauded Marias as a mentor who left him with a passion for community service and the desire to put others above self.
"Although I thought I knew him well, it wasn't until I attended his memorial service and learned of all the things he was involved with that I fully realized just how much he had devoted himself to the service of others," Kissinger said.
"He made me realize that I am not giving back enough to Burbank and our surrounding communities. And tonight, in his memory, I commit to doing all I can to dedicate myself to a higher level of community service in this coming year. I ask that each of you do the same, to honor Dr. Marias' devotion to making our community and this world a better place," he added.
Among those who took part in the event, which was chaired by Silvia Mancini of the Walt Disney Co., were local dignitaries including state Sen. Anthony Portantino, school board member Roberta Reynolds, city manager Ron Davis, former Mayor Anja Reinke, and police commissioner Elise Stearns-Niesen.
Other notables in attendance included Burbank real estate specialists Karen Volpei and Barry Gussow, Chris Miller Hunter, who serves as the managing director of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, and volunteer dental hygienists and dentists including Kristin Moriguchi, Punita Oswal, Elbert and Vivian Tom, Sam Kim and Geoffrey Okada, who along with more than 20 other clinic volunteers, serve more than 7,000 children each year.
Established in 2002, the Kids' Community Dental Clinic filled a crucial gap in oral healthcare services for children from low-income working families that occurred when, after 35 years, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center closed its dental clinic.
Initially known as the Kids' Community Clinic of Burbank, the name of the nonprofit organization was changed to the Kids' Community Dental Clinic in 2004 to emphasize its focus on oral healthcare prevention and treatment, and to welcome children who live outside of Burbank.
Today, the clinic, which relies on the funding of private and corporate supporters, provides low-cost treatments to children up to 18 years old from low-income families all over Southern California.
For more information about the services or support opportunities at the Kids' Community Dental Clinic, call (818) 841-8010.