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Circus Lets the Soleil Shine in for Childhelp

The event: Opening night performance of Cirque du Soleil to benefit Childhelp USA, which helps abused and neglected children. Benefit festivities began with a pre-party reception followed by Cirque’s body-bending performance at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and ended with a cast party.

Three-ring circuit: Before joining 2,500 theatergoers under the big blue-and-yellow top, about 170 guests--major donors to Childhelp--enjoyed a buffet of polenta lasagna, sea bass, filet mignon and other gourmet fare at the Robert Mondavi Wine & Food Center in Costa Mesa. After the performance, cast and crew members joined a smaller crowd at Crystal Court, South Coast Plaza, for a late-night buffet prepared by local restaurants.

Quote: The show was called “Quidam"--that’s Latin for something or someone known but unnamed. “Cirque’s message is concern for the anonymous person who gets lost in the shuffle, and that’s our concern at Childhelp,” said Barbara Ganahl, event chairwoman.

Amateur critics: Party-goers raved about the high-flying performance of the Cirque cast, although a few admitted that they weren’t entirely sure they fully understood the story line. “We’re all kind of groping for what it means,” said Patti Edwards, president of the Orange County Chapter of Childhelp USA.

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Guest list: Honorary chairman Henry Segerstrom; Peter Ganahl; Rick Evans; Pam Arnett; Janet Brown; Nancy Whitlock; Dick Marconi; Priscilla “Bo” Moore; Harry and Shari Esayian; Mark and Barbara Johnson; Anna Petruzzelli; Matt and Tina Schafnitz; Anton Segerstrom; Kent and Ginni Valley; Mary Allyn Dexter; and Jim and Bernice Edwards.

Bottom line: Cirque donated proceeds from all show tickets, which ranged from $25 to $150, to the Orange County Chapter of Childhelp. Sponsors who donated $1,000 or more were invited to the pre-party reception, and tickets to the cast party were $25, bringing net proceeds to more than $200,000. Funds will support the Village of Childhelp USA, a residential treatment center in Riverside County, and two group homes in Orange County.

What’s next?: Something without a big top--the 15th Annual Childhelp USA Celebrity Golf Classic, with California Angels pitcher Chuck Finley serving as host, to be held April 24 at the Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine.

Whom to call: For information on upcoming events, call Pam Butler at (562) 693-0577.

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