Kids Take the Spotlight

The June Burnett Institute for Children, Youth and Families gathered about 200 business leaders May 20 in the U.S. Grant Ballroom for the first of what it expects to be an annual awards luncheon.

Coordinated by Elena Mier y Teran, the event specifically honored Ann Burr, president of Southwestern Cable and chairman of the Private Industry Council's "Hire a Youth" campaign. The day also applauded eight business people and educators for their support of the institute, a privately funded organization based at San Diego State University that sponsors the innovative "12 Together" school drop-out prevention program. The institute's stated goal is to create prevention-oriented service programs for children and their parents.

Speakers drew particular attention to the "12 Together" program, which pairs mentors from the community with groups of youngsters at risk of leaving school before graduation; in 1991, 130 youths graduated from program, and 200 are expected to graduate this year. As evidence of the success of the program, event organizers seated a student member of "12 Together" at each table.

Members of the Institute's Business Council anted up $100 each to attend the luncheon, a stiff price for a daytime event, which produced net proceeds of $20,000. In return they were given a menu of tomato soup and pasta primavera designed by Anne Day, wife of SDSU President Tom Day, as well as a series of inspirational testimonies to the success of the institute and its programs.

"When you work with something this successful, and see kids stay in school, it's a great satisfaction," said Ness Tory, the Business Council co-chair.

"Our goal is to encourage students to stay in school through graduation," said Albert Johnson, chair of the institute's advisory board. "Without that encouragement, many at-risk students simply don't find their way. But many who might have dropped out now are on their way to becoming productive citizens."

Ron Williams, principal of Southwest Junior High, noted that "small miracles are happening almost on a daily basis" thanks to 12 Together, which he said "teaches young people to believe in themselves."

But Mier y Teran, who organized the event from Baton Rouge, La., where her husband, onetime CBS News chief Sig Mickelson, had been teaching a communications course, perhaps summed things up most succinctly with the remark that, "The June Burnett Institute preserves the integrity of the family."

The attendance included Terry Churchill, Inger Davis, Stacey Burke, Danah Fayman, Lori Squier, Ted Uhler, Joy Wolf, Glen Estell, John Wedemeyer, Mel Katz, Kay Porter, Wes Brustad, Ann Benedict, Valerie Hamilton, Eric Stein, Ronald Hopkins and Robert McRann.

LA JOLLA--Children in fact were the focus of the bulk of the week's events.

On May 17, attorney Craig McClellan and his wife, Susan, who will chair the annual "Rendezvous In the Zoo" gala for the San Diego Zoo on June 20, invited about 50 guests to their home for a "friend-raiser" aimed at broadening participation in the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The organization attempts to grant the wishes, often unusual and sometimes quite costly, of gravely ill children.

Though the average cost of a wish is now $3,500, and some far exceed that figure--Make-a-Wish recently granted one youngster's request that a room of his own be added to the family residence--officials emphasized that the organization actively seeks out children to serve.

"We need to raise consciousness--funds, too--but awareness of our group, so that people will refer children to us. That's our goal," said Ilene Hubbs, executive director of the organization.

As the audience gathered in the late-afternoon shadows, board President Donn Bleau told them, "Our function is to grant wishes, very simply. But it's getting more challenging. Unfortunately, we've started to see more children who are HIV-positive, and the scary thing is that we have no way of knowing how many of them there will be. But, while that's a challenge, we're reaching out to serve as many children as possible."

Susan McClellan fueled her guests with typical La Jolla Sunday afternoon fare, or raw vegetables, cheese and white wine.

"Compared with other organizations, we're really grass roots," she said. "Make-a-Wish draws people who are truly interested in the cause. We have three paid employees and more than 400 volunteers."

The guest list included Judi Strada, Nina and Bob Doede, Ralph Van De Moere, Jo Ricker, Mary Lou LoPreste, Rod Edmonds, Nancy Van Doren, Susan and Doug McKnight, Rita Foster, Sue Merz, Sharon Whitley and Chris Canning.

SAN DIEGO--Many of the 500 women at last Tuesday's presentation of the Bill Blass fall collection spent a good deal of their time praying to the deity of hatpins, who, as it happened, frequently turned a deaf ear.

The women faced one another, in neat and sometimes pastel rows, across a runway built on a lawn at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. The unusual venue--fashion shows virtually always proceed under artificial lighting in hotel ballrooms--resulted from Blass' new predilection for the great outdoors; his shows on the shores of Lake Tahoe evidently have become a hit with the designer and audience alike. As it happened, the beneficiary, the San Diego Opera, found it easier to provide a fairway than to meet Blass' original request of a suitable site at the beach.

The sun cooperated rather stunningly with the fund-raiser, but the winds that scrubbed the skies to a shade of designer blue also sent picture hats spinning across the lawns like so many haute couture flying saucers. Some of the models also found themselves grasping at skirts--Blass offers many slit to nothing short of daring heights--that suddenly rearranged themselves in unexpected configurations.

Blass himself attended, and after informing the audience, "We're here to see the show; on with the show!" stood back to enjoy what was, in fact, one of the most sparkling such occasions in the past year or two.

Chairman Elsie Weston described the event as a "change of pace for the fashion show crowd," a crowd that, on this occasion, went reasonably ga-ga over Blass' latest offerings. Most weren't buyers, though everything was on display in a tent after the presentation, because the prices tend to be quite as impressive as the creations.

The Opera earned about $30,000 from the luncheon and show, thanks to the unprecedented number of women who attended at the higher-priced patrons level. Among them were Esther Burnham, Sally Thornton, Lee Goldberg, Charmaine Kaplan, Mary Cobb, Lee Maturo, Phyllis Kraus, Sook Bower, Edith Locke, Georgette McGregor, Sandra Schafer, Martha Mary Meade, Luba Johnston, Valerie Preiss, Ann and Michael Ibs Gonzalez, Mary Lee Adamske , Pat Keating, Irene Allis and Helen McKinley.

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