RSVP : Laying Down the Law for Children

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Alliance for Children's Rights has a T-shirt with a lion printed on the back, a tribute to one of the young children the organization helped and who thought it was the Lions for Children's Rights that had provided the legal aid.

Thus Lee Edmon's comment, as she presented one of the awards at the organization's first Service to Children Awards dinner:

"That's the way I like to think of us, as defenders and protectors of the children of Los Angeles."

More than 250 attorneys volunteer their services to disadvantaged children through this nonprofit organization, founded two years ago by Pamela Mohr, who was thrilled to hear "How can I help you?" from even non-lawyers in the crowd of 380 attending the dinner in the ballroom of the Olympic Collection.

It was a no-frills affair. The food was simple--salad, chicken, cake. There were no centerpieces, just a printed card noting, "Flowers are beautiful but expensive." The evening's emcee, Alliance President Frank Wheat, kept reminding the speakers to keep the program on schedule.

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"How much time, Frank?" teased Supervisor Edmund Edelman as he stepped up to the podium to state his thanks on receiving the Lifetime Service Award from Mayor Richard Riordan. He was allowed five minutes but came in under the wire.

The evening's program included a video, "Make a Difference in a Child's Life," which told the stories of an abused young girl and a physically disabled boy who had benefited from legal aid. These children, Louise LaMothe stressed, "could have been lost, but were found."

"All these children have stories to tell, stories which break your heart, bring a smile to your face or infuriate the hell out of you. In other words, everything which can enrich your life," said Nancy Shea, senior attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services.

She and MHAS Executive Director James Preis shared an Alliance award.

Also honored were the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, represented by Barbara Reeves, and the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, represented by Adrian Heryford.

Judge Patrick Morris--wearing, as he pointed out, a "Save the Children" tie--was allowed to bend the "keep it short" rule a bit during his key remarks.

He said dealing with the current "three strikes and you're out" aspect of the law--"the dark side"--can be very disillusioning, but that coming to this event had renewed in him some sense of optimism because "your work here represents the light."

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