Benefit Makes a Lot of a Little

Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County life

Small is beautiful.

That might have been the theme of Saturday’s low-key benefit at the Santa Ana Country Club for the Rehabilitation Institute of Southern California, or RIO.

In past years, RIO, which is in the city of Orange and provides a broad range of services to physically and functionally disabled people, has hosted larger and more elaborate benefits.

But “this time we had a different emphasis,” RIO Executive Director Praim Singh said as he extended warm greetings to arriving guests. “This evening is a thank-you to our many friends and supporters.”


Among the 75 guests seated in the dining room for a cocktail hour of table-hopping and a dinner of filet mignon was Slater Martin, owner of a local hospital supply company and an RIO volunteer.

“I don’t normally volunteer for anything,” the Irvine resident said, laughing. “This is my only charity.”

Martin, who attended the $50-per-person event with his wife, Yolanda, said his involvement with the cause began four years ago as an outgrowth of business dealings.

“The more I got to know (RIO), the more I liked about what they do,” he said. For instance: “The fact that they never turn away anyone because of money. If someone needs help, they help.”


When Stephen and Michele Margetic needed help with their 18-month-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy, they turned to RIO.

“The day we brought her in, she wasn’t even crawling yet and the therapist predicted she’d be walking by the time she was 3 years old,” Michele remembered.

Meghan Margetic attends public school in Laguna Niguel and wears high-top shoes that hide her small plastic foot braces.

“She has more high-tops than any kid in the county,” joked Meghan’s mom. “The people at RIO are responsible in large part for the fact that she can walk.”


Also among guests was Jess Perez, mayor of Orange, who rhapsodized about RIO’s various programs and proudly recalled that his involvement with the nonprofit organization began a quarter-century ago, when he worked for the architect who designed a facility that RIO has long since outgrown.

After dinner, guests bid on 23 auction items--hammered down by auctioneer Slater Martin--ranging from haircuts and theater tickets to a weeklong Acapulco cruise.