The Crowd: Breathing life into cystic fibrosis fundraising

The 28th annual gala in Newport Beach on behalf of cystic fibrosis research and a cure raised an impressive $603,000 net. More than 400 generous guests in early summer black tie and glitter helped to gather the significant sum, via underwriting and auction bidding, at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa on June 4. It was a party with purpose and passion.

Each year organizers, led by Cystic Fibrosis Guild of Orange County President Sue Hook, select the recipient of the "Breath of Life Award." It goes to an individual or couple who have demonstrated tremendous support of the CF cause.

The 2011 honor was bestowed upon Perry Daskas, father of a 15-year-old girl fighting the disease. The crowd offered a standing ovation as testament to the dedication of Daskas. More importantly, the applause was a message of hope for his child and for all of those in the audience and beyond the ballroom fighting to overcome the ravages of CF.

Emceed once again by radio personality Shawn Parr of station KKGO, the evening was really more of a love fest than simply another gala dinner on the circuit. Families came together to share their stories, a united front against CF.

One family in particular, one of many, shared the struggle of their 2-year-old child Beckett. Amy and T.J. Williams, daughter and son in law of former Angels baseball player Doug DeCinces, made it very clear that CF knows no boundary. The disease strikes people of all backgrounds. It simply does not discriminate.

Chairs of the successful gala, Dan and Gayle Demsher, pulled out the stops. The evening began with cocktails and a massive silent auction followed by dinner, live action and dancing. Bidding was high-spirited, with one couple offering to donate $100,000 as a matching gift when bidding reached a certain level. Gala volunteers deserving kudos include Karen Hall, Katie Horwich, Nancy Mallory, Dean Gerrie, Danni Good, Gail Isen, Paul Motenko, Stephanie Kahle, and Mike Shumard.

Major corporate sponsorship came from American Airlines, BJ's Restaurants, Lithocraft, Charles Schwab, Twin Med, and Traditional Jewelers, to name a few. Individual sponsors included Helen Galen, Ken and Debbie Johnson, Tom and Penny Ling, Todd and Sue Klug, Ron and Dianne Higgins, Barry and Myra Ross and event organizers Sue and Dave Hook and Dan and Gayle Demsher.

A young lady named Stacy Motenko, 24, spoke of living with CF and the challenges she has faced and overcome. Her emotional address exposed her recent past year of dealing with what she termed as a "disease modifying drug" meant to fight the onslaught of CF and fool its progression.

In the crowd supporting Stacy were Adrienne Brennan and R.J. Brandes, Stephanie and David Close, Rachelle and Paul Gale, Karen Hall and Bruce Breitenbucher, Pat and Ron Harris, Kerry and Alex Puchner, Karen and Joe Perricone, and Trisha and Tony Sanchez. Also front and center to fight CF were Dianne Stovall, Chelsea Taylor, Mike Otto, Carolyn and Bob Waltos, and Mary and Mike Zollman.

Over the past 27 years the Orange County Cystic Fibrosis Guild has raised and donated $8.6 million for research and the funding of local care for CF patients in the region. The mission of the guild is "to ensure positive futures for children and adults personally battling cystic fibrosis."

Make no mistake, it is a battle that requires 24/7 attention. To learn more about CF and the work of the Orange County Guild, visit or call (714) 938-1393.

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.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World