It is one of the most passionate charity events on the Orange Coast. The Muscular Dystrophy Assn.'s annual Gift of Hope Gala raised more than $430,000 at its 16th annual celebration earlier this summer.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens was honored as the MDA's Woman of the Year.
More than 250 dedicated donors, led by event Chairman Frank DiBella and National Goodwill Ambassador and performer Abbey Umali, converged upon the Island Hotel in Newport Beach to raise funds needed to sponsor MDA programs, most notably its Summer Camp programs. Umali wowed the crowd by singing a Rascal Flatts' song, which helped raise the temperature in the ballroom that translated into donations topping $130,000 for youth camping programs.
Super O.C. donor S. Paul Musco and his classy wife, Marybelle, added another $20,000 to the summer camp tally. The Muscos have been closely involved with MDA for years, supporting the efforts of friend DiBella, as well as the lifelong campaign of another friend, entertainer Jerry Lewis.
Musco has also been instrumental in fostering a close relationship with Lewis and Chapman University, where Lewis' daughter is a student and also where the Muscos are heading a major capital campaign to raise funds for the Chapman Performing Arts Center to be built on campus.
Founded in 1955, the MDA Summer Camp program has assisted some 4,000 children with neuromuscular disease to experience a joyful summer respite at 90 camps nationwide. MDA covers the full cost of $600 per child raised from events such as the recent gala in Newport Beach.
Adding to the evening's prestige was emcee Jann Carl, former co-anchor of "Entertainment Tonight." Patrons enjoyed a gourmet dinner with entertainment by Tino Productions.
A remarkable evening at the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach last week welcomed some extraordinary young people from all over the Pacific region. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America presented the 65th annual Pacific Region Youth of the Year Competition. It brought together kids displaying academic achievement, school and community service, and evidence of overcoming obstacles and challenges in their young lives.
Some $11,000 in college scholarships were awarded, underwritten by national sponsor Tupperware Brands Corp. Honored youth from all over America will land in Washington, D.C., in September to compete for national recognition and a potential addition of $50,000 in scholarship funding from the Rick and Susan Goings Foundation.
Miss USA Rachel Smith served as emcee of the uplifting event, which welcomed 10 outstanding kids from Alaska, Hawaii and other states.
A final note on the subject of assisting youth today: Newport-Mesa's most dedicated champion of child welfare, Sandra Segerstrom Daniels, founder of Festival of Children, has been instrumental in a national effort to designate September 2011 as National Child Awareness Month.
Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced last week that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Resolution 231 on behalf of child welfare awareness in September.
"National Child Awareness Month is about communities, charities, and businesses coming together to bring focused attention and support to the resource that guarantees our continued greatness as a nation — our children," Segerstrom Daniels said.
For more information on the Festival of Children, visit http://www.festivalofchildren.org.
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.