The Valley Line: ‘La Nuit des Rêves’ raises more than $400,000 for Hillsides’ work with children, families

It was a French-inspired theme for the Hillsides benefit held Feb. 24 at the Langham Huntington, Pasadena. The Southern California mental health and foster care charity raised $417,000 during its annual gala, La Nuit des Rêves (The Night of Dreams).

Some 350 guests enjoyed the event. Among the crowd were actors dressed like Marie Antoinette and King Louis XV. They caused quite a stir as they chatted with the formally dressed guests.


The gala was co-chaired by longtime Hillsides supporters John Gong and Joan McCarthy, the latter a La Cañada Flintridge resident. During the evening, McCarthy welcomed the crowd and stressed the importance of the event, which is Hillsides' largest fundraiser of the year. "Tonight and together, we will make dreams come true for the 14,000 deserving children, young adults and families of Hillsides," she said.

The evening included a silent cocktail and dinner auction, live auction, and paddle auction. NBC4 Southern California's weather forecaster Fritz Coleman, with his usual humorous patter, emceed the live auction. His skills led to the sales of packages such as a 12-day cruise for two on Holland America Line, a Paris Hotel Las Vegas getaway, tickets to Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, and a Barbara Poer Design Golden South Sea pearl gold ring surrounded by 64 diamonds.

Some of the VIPs attending the gala were U.S. Rep. Judy Chu; the Rt. Rev. John H. Taylor, who gave the invocation before the dinner; media personality Dr. Drew Pinsky; John Mahon, percussionist and back-up vocalist for the Elton John Band; psychic medium Rebecca Fearing and comedian and author Heather McDonald.

During the reception portion of the evening, Chu presented co-chairs McCarthy and Gong with certificates of congressional recognition. Christian Daly, assistant field deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, presented the co-chairs and Hillsides with County of Los Angeles commendations.

During the gala program, Joseph M. Costa, president and chief executive officer of Hillsides, paid tribute to the woman who established the organization's first gala 33 years ago, Sylvia Bartlett. Bartlett, who was also a founding member of the Hillsides Guild, a support group of Hillsides, passed away unexpectedly in February. "We are missing her dearly," said Costa.

Another highlight of the evening was the guest speaker, Jasa Hawkins. Hawkins receives services from Hillsides' Youth Moving on Program, which provides youth with affordable housing, workforce training and a Peer Resource Center where they can access a wide array of services and referrals. Hawkins detailed how the program helped find her a job at Starbucks and an apartment after four years of homelessness.

"Everyone at Youth Moving On brought so much positivity and healing to my life," she said. "I now feel I have control in my life. I have a future."

Hillsides, with its affiliate Bienvenidos, is dedicated to healing children and young adults, strengthening families and transforming communities through services and advocacy. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the agency serves 14,000 children and families in Southern California throughout more than 40 sites, including school-based mental health offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena and Baldwin Park. Foster care and adoptions services are offered in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.


Also on Feb. 24, more than 100 La Cañada Junior Women's Club members and guests enjoyed an evening with a Moroccan and Spanish-themed party at an historic Prohibition-era Flintridge estate that was the Pasadena Showcase House of Design in 2002, the former longtime home of Dr. Paul and Beverly Toffel.

The home resembles a Spanish castle and includes a speakeasy-style bar that is hidden behind the wood panels in the study. The Spanish Colonial Revivalist estate was the perfect backdrop for the club's party theme, "An Enchanted Evening at the Villa."

The Juniors Club, which will celebrate its 50th year in the community next year, began the evening with an exotic cocktail reception with passed hors d'oeuvres. Later, guests enjoyed a full buffet dinner catered by ETC Gourmet Kitchen in Montrose.

Funds raised during the party, chaired by Jill Chapman, benefited Ronald McDonald House and Five Acres. The evening featured a silent auction, wine toss and dancing on the expansive, multilevel grounds of the estate.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.