400 Go Out on a Limb for Hoag Hospital

Like boat parades and surfing Santas, the Christmas Carol Ball that benefits Hoag Hospital is a Newport Beach Yuletide tradition.

This year, the 552 Club of the Hoag Hospital Foundation that staged the Saturday gala added a new feature: a “Festival of Trees” that turned the Newport Beach Marriott ballroom into a sparkling forest. More than 400 guests paid $200 each to attend the ball and bid on the trees, raising more than $125,000 in net proceeds for the Newport Beach hospital’s Emergency Care Unit.

Branching Out

For many guests, the Christmas Carol Ball is a holiday favorite they look forward to each December.


“This was one of the first big events that ever happened in Newport Beach,” said Al Auer, chairman of the hospital board who has missed no more than two of the early balls.

Some recalled the years when John Wayne would show up and read an inspirational poem called “A Solitary Life,” while Buddy Ebsen would entertain the crowd by dancing solo.

This year, guests found the ballroom filled with 30 silk trees that had been transformed by florists, decorators and designers. Some tannenbaums sported unusual ornaments: sunflowers, Mardi Gras masks, a full-size bird cage and even compact discs. Guests circled the ballroom admiring the trees and voted on their favorite--one festooned with nutcrackers. Later, the trees were auctioned off to raise money for Hoag.

“We thought this would be a good way to get people familiar with the idea of a festival of trees,” said festival chairman Paul Nyquist.


Topsy-Turvy Tree

In keeping with the tree motif, the decorating committee suspended a fully trimmed tree upside down above the dance floor.

“We wanted to play with the theme,” explained Jo Ann Bozza, ball chairwoman.

Large glass bowls filled with red roses, white orchids and floating cranberries graced each table. Dinner was a true Yuletide feast: roast loin of veal and Maine lobster followed by a dessert of chocolate Yule log with eggnog sauce.


As in years past, Harry Babbitt led the crowd in caroling.

“All of them think I’ll call on them for a solo. Once they get over that fear, they loosen up,” said Babbitt, who attended with wife Betty.

One voice that was missed was that of Robert Wilcox, a longtime Hoag supporter who died earlier this year. The ball was dedicated to his memory.

“We only missed two of the balls,” said Ellen Wilcox, his wife of 42 years. She met her husband on Balboa Island when she was 12 and he was 14.


“Everything we did, we did together. We even served together as chairmen of this ball.”

Among the Hoag supporters were: Courtney Emery, president of the 552 Club; James Reed, event vice chairman, and his wife Amanda; Richard and Katharine Agnew, Robert and Anne Badham, Hazem and Selma Chehabi, Warren and Joanne Fix, Charles and Nora Hester, George and Patty Hoag, Hans and Charlene Prager, Roger and Candice Schnapp, Delane and Catherine Thyen, William and Elizabeth Vincent, Donald and Karen Whitaker, Tom and Kathy White and James Wilcox as Santa.