The Crowd: Celebration helps children

They called it "A Celebration of Children."

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County (CASA) held their 26th anniversary gala at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Hotel & Spa. Country music artist Jimmy Wayne, who grew up in the foster care system, shared his personal story and performed for more than 500 guests coming together to raise $800,000 for CASA.

Founded in 1985 by 15 volunteers, CASA today proudly counts among its caring local participants more than 750 people serving abused and neglected children in the foster care system. At the recent gala, organizers honored Sheila and Jim Peterson with the Children's Champion Award.

Also honored was Frank La Soya, named as Advocate of the Year. Alfonso, Gonzalo and Esmeralda Martinez took home the Outstanding Youth Award from CASA. Corporate support from Deutsche Bank, represented by the respected Doug and Melinda McCrea, received the honors for Corporate Honoree for 2011. For more information on the work of CASA, please contact Lynda Sloan at (714) 619-5155.

Some 350 guests converged upon the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana for the third annual Nicholas Academic Centers Graduation Celebration. An impressive 100% of the 2011 graduates, a total of 60 students, plan to attend college in the fall.

The Nicholas Academic Centers, founded several years ago by Newport Coast resident Dr. Henry Nicholas, former CEO of Broadcom Corporation, in association with retired Superior Court Judge Jack Mandel, finds its purpose in enhancing the success level of mostly inner-city students attending public schools and enabling them to find a path to college. The impressive success rate speaks volumes about the importance of the Nicholas program.

On hand for the upbeat event at the Bowers was executive director of the centers Dr. Corina A. Espinoza joining Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido welcoming the graduates and their families.

The 2011 Culinary Masters event unfolded at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort showcasing top chefs and restaurants in Southern California benefiting the Project HOPE School Foundation. More than 350 patrons paid a minimum of $1,000 per person to attend the black-tie gala.

Major sponsor Trace3, a high-tech firm in Irvine, donated an impressive $250,000 as the title sponsor of the evening in addition to support from donors including Sidney Frank, Barenjager Honey Licquer, Addington Confections, Dining Out, Donna B's, Sonoma Syrups, Nestle Waters, Oceans & Earth, Sadie Rose & Vin Goat Cheeses, Peju Wine and Jacques Cardin Cognac.

The Project HOPE School Foundation raises funds to help children without permanent homes transition into the mainstream educational system. HOPE stands for "Homeless Outreach Program in Education."

A recent HBO documentary titled "Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County" featured the work of Project HOPE, which currently serves 60 students who are homeless in a program that spans a 50-week year. Some of the top restaurants participating in the evening were AnQi, Claes Restaurant in Hotel Laguna, Pinot Provence, Tommy Bahama, Roy's and the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, to name only a few.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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