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2 Benefits Clash at S.D. Intersection

The city has seemed increasingly overrun with fund-raisers in the last year or so, but never quite so literally as on Saturday, when the weekend’s two largest benefits collided head-on at the intersection of Harbor Drive and Harbor Island Drive.

It was a scene that gave pause to hundreds, especially those traffic-bound souls who were not participating in either the “Light the Night Against Crime” 10-kilometer run or the Mercy Ball, but merely hoped to reach Lindbergh Field.

Lanes had been set aside on Harbor Drive for the use of the 6,000-plus participants in the fun run, which began near Seaport Village and worked its way up the waterfront to Harbor Island. The island, or more specifically the Sheraton Harbor Island East’s Champagne Ballroom, also was the destination of the 500 Mercy Hospital supporters who signed on to attend the 19th annual Mercy Ball.

Advantage to Runners

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The runners--legs pumping, arms flailing, souvenir electric torches piercing the night with a thousand points of light--had a definite advantage over their motoring counterparts, who idled in the gridlock, whistled Dixie and perhaps wished that their formally shod feet also had wings.

The ball-goers did ultimately arrive at their destination, late, to be sure, but also less breathlessly than the runners who swept by on the other side of the drive. Tumbling along in the breeze, the runners looked like so many autumn leaves when a sudden gust threw some off balance and threatened to blow them right up to the Champagne Ballroom vestibule.

That they should have looked like fall foliage on the loose made a fortuitous visual simile for ball chairman Mim Sally, who in fact styled the event “Autumn Leaves” and made sure that the premises were decorated with plenty of the same. And, if the runners outdistanced the Mercy Ball guests early in the evening, the ball-goers took their revenge in the stretch. The party paced itself nicely in relays, getting off to an energetic start with a champagne reception and ending with several hours of hot-footing it to the Bill Green Orchestra.

Impressive Turnout

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The throng included scores of doctors and their wives as well as many civic leaders who have maintained long ties with Mercy Hospital. Sally, an old hand at chairing events, was cheered by the impressive turnout (the recent onslaught of fund-raisers has divided the pie into very thin slices and cut attendance at some events), but said she was not in the least surprised by it.

“San Diego’s oldest hospital has brought us together tonight, and I planned on having a full house for the ball,” said Sally. “Mercy is a caring hospital, and it will be able to give a little better care after we turn over the proceeds from ‘Autumn Leaves.’ ”

The ball’s earnings, which were expected to approach six figures, are earmarked specifically for the hospital’s rehabilitation services for patients recovering from neurological, muscular and orthopedic impairments.

Mercy Hospital President Richard Keyser described the ball as essential to the medical center’s programs. “This is our most significant fund-raising event of the year, and it enables us to do things at the hospital that otherwise couldn’t be done,” he said.

At least for the moment, the guests seemed less concerned with the ball’s serious side than with taking advantage of its many attractions. After the reception, they settled down at tables centered with revolving floral arrangements (those susceptible to dizziness pulled the plugs quickly enough) and lazed through a dinner of squash soup, filet mignon with chanterelles and creme bavarois aux marrons .

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Master of Ceremonies Bob Arnhym raffled off vacations in Spain and elsewhere before introducing the featured entertainer, Roberta Linn. None of the guests seemed to have any difficulty recalling that the able chanteuse was Lawrence Welk’s original Champagne Lady, and she swept the crowd along with her able renditions of popular oldies.

Among the guests were Marilyn and Frank Pavel, Vangie and Dick Burt, Ruth Carpenter and Tom Fleming, Betty and Ross Tharp, Al Sally, Donna Guttman, Maria Rosa and Paul Stanley, Andrea and John Bokosky, Betty Hubbard, Terry Freeman, Lillian and Bill Vogt, Charlotte and S. Falck Nielsen, Kay and Bill Rippee, Dolly Ragan, Lynn and Frank Silva and Bishop Leo T. Maher.

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The sponsors of Saturday’s runners held their own party, the fourth annual Crime Stoppers Gala, at the San Diego Marriott Oct. 20 as a benefit for San Diego Crime Stoppers.

About half the 350 guests followed honorary chairman Steve Garvey’s lead and wore sneakers or running shoes to demonstrate their devotion to the group’s 1988 theme, “Run Crime Out of Town.”

Garvey, whose attendance cost him the chance to view the final game of the World Series, reprised a role he has played at the previous three Crime Stoppers galas. He said he didn’t mind at all, because the gala has evolved into a successful kick-off to the “Light the Night Against Crime” run. The Garv added that the group has researched other fund-raising runs and to the best of its knowledge can claim to sponsor the largest night run in the United States.

Not only did the invitations promise a best sneakers competition (with women’s, men’s and couples’ divisions, no less) but it decorated the tables with representations of pink high-heeled sneakers and handed out fluorescent shoelaces and pastel flashlights as party favors.

‘Everybody’s Problem’

Crime Stoppers vice president Ted Owen chaired the event and said it was given because “crime is everybody’s problem, and Crime Stoppers does something about some of the worst crimes.” Owen, who wore business shoes (“I just plain forgot my sneakers,” he said), added that the group takes only unsolvable crimes referred to it by the Police and Sheriff’s departments and claims responsibility for solving more than 950 felony cases and recovering about $5 million in stolen property in its four years of existence.

Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller brought along Atty. Gen. John Van De Kamp as a surprise guest, and the guest list was indeed heavy with law enforcement officials, including Chief of Police Bob Burgreen and Sheriff John Duffy.


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