The seventh-annual “Evening with the Stars Celebrity Gala” was a soap-opera fan’s wildest dream come true.
For a $100 donation to the La Crescenta-based Desi Geestman Foundation, guests mingled with daytime’s stars from “Young & the Restless”, “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “General Hospital” Saturday night at a private party on the property of the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. There were 300 guests and more than 30 celebrities attending, including Don Diamont, Alley Mills, John McCook, Ronn Moss and Michelle Stafford.
At the Desi Geestman Foundation, 85% of contributions go to improve the quality of life for children with cancer and their families by providing emotional and financial support. The event is named in honor of Desi Geestman, who, at 12 years old and while fighting Neuroblastoma, wanted to provide the same support to other children and their families that she and her family received during her journey with cancer.
Actress Heather Tom, who lives in Glendale and has both “Y&R” and “B&B” on her resume, has been attending the gala for four years, she said. She worked with Desi’s father, Bernie Geestman, on both shows, where he is a stage technician.
“The testament to the success of this event is the number of people who show up every year and support the foundation,” she said.
This was Ignacio Serricchio’s sixth year attending the gala. He formerly played Diego Alcazar on “General Hospital” and just wrapped production on the film “Quarantine,” which will be released in February.
“I lost a 9-year-old cousin to cancer,” he said. “Kids are everything. We’ve got to take care of each other as human beings, and this is one of the ways.”
Serricchio also makes visits to patients at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
“Anything I can do for sick children I’ll do, if it’s in my power,” he said.
Geestman’s family and approximately 40 volunteers coordinated the celebrity gala, said her mother, Ileana Geestman, the foundation’s program director.
“The volunteers come in shifts and there are teens, adults, families and people who have lost children to cancer helping us to do this,” she said.
It’s an honor to be able to raise funds for cancer services, she added.
“If we can do a single thing to make their life better while they are going through this cancer journey, that’s what makes it rewarding for us and everyone involved,” she said.
The event averages about $30,000 each year and Ileana Geestman said she expected the same amount this year.
“In a slow economy, that’s a miracle to pull off,” she said.
Daughter Teresa Geestman said she was proud that the event was so well attended.
“It’s still exciting that my family and the foundation are able to bring out such a large amount of people to support a great cause,” she said.
Former Glendale resident James F. Arzola said he is grateful for the foundation’s help after his son, Robert, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at 16 months old.
“He went through seven rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and surgery,” he said. “The Desi Geestman Foundation supported us financially and emotionally. They were a big help.”
The road was even rougher for the family because they also have a 15-year-old son with Down syndrome.
“That alone was devastating,” he added. “So through the graces of the good Lord, the City of Hope and the power of prayer, Robert is in remission and he’s doing awesome. He just started kindergarten and is playing T-ball and taking swimming lessons.”