Column: Big Brothers Big Sisters event raises $2.9 million


Orange County business leaders rallied in support of mentoring local youth at the 54th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire (BBBS) dinner and fundraiser on Oct. 4.

The results were stellar. A record-breaking $2.9 million was raised in support of one-on-one youth mentoring programs sponsored by the organization.

The tony Balboa Bay Resort’s grand ballroom welcomed some 300 dapper gents and charming ladies for the black-tie gourmet dinner co-chaired by three significant BBBS advocates: Todd Pickup, Navin Narang and Carl Johnson.

A serious gift came from in the form of a $1-million matching grant during the “fund-a-need” portion of the evening appeal.

Advertisement made the generous donation on behalf of all of the Joel K. Rubenstein Award honorees recognized by BBBS. The Joel K. Rubsenstein Award is the highest honor bestowed upon advocates of the cause.

At the recent 2018 event, the honor was paid to Jeff Frieden, co-founder and executive chairman of Ten-X. This year’s Rubenstein honoree was joined by past notable advocates, including Rob Friedman, Rudy Baldoni, Richard Bertea, Peter Desforges, Paul Fruchbom, Mike Helin, Paul Marx, Julian Movsesian, Charles Ruck, Henry Walker and Joseph Ueberroth.

Front and center was the new BBBS chief executive, Sloane Keane, joined by husband Kevin Keane.

Sloane praised the commitment of Jeff Frieden, saying, “He has changed futures for hundreds of youth in our community — a passion close to his heart.”

Frieden has been mentoring youth for three decades.

“The socio-economic change realized by youth as a result of the mentoring given by Jeff and others would not be possible without the support that comes from our annual gourmet dinners,” Sloane said. “Our shared goal remains constant: break the cycle of poverty and dependence for the youth we serve.”

The evening on the coast began with a cocktail reception that featured the All-American Boys Chorus performing the national anthem and the presentation of colors by the Sunburst Youth Academy.

The crowd sampled fine Scotch before the dining room doors beckoned it to a formal dinner prepared by executive chef Rachel Haggstrom.

Later in the program, volunteer Ian Farrell and his Little Brother, Leo, 18, kicked off the fund-a-need appeal with a moving story of their four-year match, according to a news release. In high school, Leo’s stepfather became gravely ill shortly after his mother learned she was pregnant. Leo spent his senior year not only applying for colleges, studying and working, but taking care of an infant. After his stepfather died, Leo almost decided to remain at home to support his family instead of going to college. But thanks to Ian’s encouragement and unwavering support, he moved forward with his enrollment at UC Santa Barbara and has plans to graduate in three years from the physics program.

“One thing I admire about Ian is that he always stands up for what he believes in. And when I needed it the most, he believed in me,” Leo told guests.

Major individual donors in the crowd, in addition to the co-chairs and Rubenstein honorees, included Trace Chalmers, Steve Couig, Blake Johnson, Guy Johnson, Chris Reedy, Tom Reyes, Allen Schreiber, Paul Westhead, along with corporate donors Sterling BMW and Darioush underwriting the wine.

Also, in the O.C. VIP business crowd attending were Richard Pickup, John Hamilton, Dennis Kuhl, Mike Nevell, Chuck Finley, Joe Moody, George Argyros Jr., Fred Smith, Ken Cruse, Norm Christensen, Jason Pels, Kevin Tiber, Kory Kramer, and Cary Hyden.

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