On Behalf of the Children

The event: For the Love of a Child, a luncheon and spring fashion show staged by the Orange County Chapter of Childhelp USA. The luncheon, held Friday at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, benefited Childhelp's residential and treatment programs for abused and neglected children.

Rite of spring: The fashion show proved a welcome sign of spring for those weary of El Nino. Under colored lights, models showed off everything from suits with thigh-high slits to billowy ball gowns from South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. The crowd of 425 (mostly women) saved the biggest applause for male models who sauntered down the runway brandishing cigars and sporting smoking jackets, pajamas and boxer shorts.

Connie's story: Guests watched the premiere of a Childhelp USA video in which Anaheim resident Connie Mercado shares the story of growing up in an abusive home and finding a haven at the Village of Childhelp USA residential treatment facility in Beaumont in Riverside County. Mercado watched the video from a table decked with white roses, then stepped to the podium to thank guests for helping her become a loving mother of three. "I owe my life to every single one of you guys," she said. They gave her a standing ovation.

Quote: "A lot of Childhelp members befriend a child at the Village. The members take them on outings, remember their birthdays, send them letters and give them a lot of one-on-one contact," said Janet Brown, event co-chairwoman. "The children get a feeling that someone cares for them."

Proceeds: The $75-per-person luncheon was expected to net $80,000 for the local Childhelp chapter. Proceeds will support Childhelp's two group homes for abused children in Orange County, the Village shelter and the national abuse hotline ([800] 4-A-Child).

Faces: Janet Brown and Erna Minkoff, event co-chairs; Rose Diehl, recipient of Childhelp's Angel Award; Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, Childhelp founders; Mary Allyn Dexter, chapter president; Patti Edwards; Tim Drom; Billur Wallerich; Dale San Filippo; Pam Arnett; Gemma Wolf; William Thomas; Myrna Levy; Nita Jeanne Luke; and Barbara Ganahl.

What's ahead: Childhelp USA's 16th Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament May 7 at the Oak Creek Golf Club, Irvine. (213) 465-4016.

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