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The Crowd: Unmasking domestic violence

During the past decade it seems like the public is constantly reminded by the media of the serious nature of domestic violence in our society. Strange that this cancer was virtually invisible in the media in decades past. Did it not exist? Have we become a more violent population, more accepting — for lack of a better word — of abuse between family members?

Unfortunately, it would seem that society should face domestic violence in an opposite manner. The more people hear about it, the less people should tolerate it. It's just not the case, and the statistics seem to grow exponentially crossing all socioeconomic demographics.

On Oct. 6, 275 citizens joined forces on a Saturday evening at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa for a masquerade ball created to raise both funds and awareness supporting programs offered by an organization known as Laura's House, which provides assistance for victims of domestic violence in Orange County. Organizers labeled the gala "Music of the Night," borrowing the theme from composer Andrew Lloyd Weber's iconic "Phantom of the Opera." Chaired by Laura Khouri with assistance from a committee that included Laura Batz, Jennifer Boyer, Sandy Jacobson, Linda Kearns, Andrea Stephens, Denise Strini, Casey Wolin, Lorrie and Kurt Ross, and Karen and Wayne Pinnell, the event was a sellout success.

The crowd arrived for a sunset cocktail reception featuring a massive silent auction with more than 200 donated items. Vikki Vargas, NBCTV 4's Orange County bureau chief, led the evening as mistress of ceremonies.

Margaret Bayston, chief executive and executive director of Laura's House, was front and center to thank donors for their support.

"This gala is instrumental in building greater awareness that helps us to fulfill our mission," she said. "Stopping domestic violence depends largely on changing social beliefs, attitudes and then behavior."

The evening was also a milestone for Laura's House because donations reached a goal of $4.5 million in capital campaign fundraising. The funds will be used to rebuild the Laura's House emergency shelter and to buy a separate facility for their Step Ahead Transitional Housing program, which places shelter graduates into the next step toward self reliance.

Orange County citizens recognized for their dedication to the campaign included Anne MacPherson, Khouri and Capital Campaign Chairs Wayne and Karen Pinnell. Tiffany & Co. at South Coast Plaza generously donated hand-selected crystal cut bowls as a gift to major donors.

The crowd enjoyed a dinner of filet and halibut and toasted martinis that flowed from a martini luge in the shape of a mask in keeping with the theme. Spotted in the crowd were Shelley Hoss, Amanda Fowler, Helen Timpe, Susan Johnson, John Johnson, Stephanie Bucklmayer, and Richard and Donna Pickup. Also enjoying the evening were Tom Burnside, Helen Amor, John Kehl, Joann Leatherby, Jacob Moser, Jim Murphy and Cynthia Stevens. Net proceeds are expected to reach $150,000.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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