Giving the gift of time to parents and critically ill kids

Times Staff Writer

AT the cool and serene Pat Nesbitt estate in Summerland on a recent Saturday, charity -- and a “champagne and cigars” theme -- brought about 200 people to a terrace overlooking a cobalt infinity pool and the polo field beyond. (The polo field is apparently the new tennis court.)

Waiters passed appetizers and desserts -- ceviche, chilled shrimp, black bean quesadillas, skewered fruit, mini Key lime pies, coconut truffles -- to a crowd that included Lady Ridleytree, Dr. Chris Landon (chief of pediatrics at Ventura County Hospital), producer Nancy Moonves, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society L.A. chapter Executive Director Lance Slaughter, Yolanda Hadid, Patricia Kennedy, former child star Thomas Cook, MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan and artist Dwayne Valentine.

Nesbitt, founder of hotel management firm Windsor Capital Group, and his fiancee, Ursula Beaton, in a yellow lace summer frock, hosted the Cuban-themed event, a benefit for the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation, which helps the families of critically ill children.

Dressed all in white and clutching a snowy parasol, Valerie Sobel took the microphone to talk about the organization, which she started in 2000 after her 18-year-old son, Andre, died of a malignant brain tumor. While in the hospital with her son, she said, she had been shocked to see terminally ill children suffering and sometimes even dying alone, without their mothers to comfort them. In many cases, she found, marriages break up when children become critically ill and women can’t afford to stop working to spend time at the hospital. She made it her mission to offer support.


Working with select hospitals nationwide, the foundation steps in within 24 hours when a family’s funds are depleted to help pay for rent, groceries, medical bills or burial costs.

It is a practical mission “without heartless red tape,” Sobel said. “Our gift is that of more time for the parent and child together.”

As the day unwound, mojitos and Veuve Clicquot rose were sipped, cigars smoked, and an auction that included a new Audi and two paintings by Tom Bierdz helped raise funds for tragedy-stricken families. And that, said Sobel, made “all this hoopla worthwhile.”