The Crowd: Stars come out for ocean preservation

The stars were in the sky, and plenty of them were seated at the event.

The fifth anniversary SeaChange Summer Party welcomed very special guests Morgan Freeman and Jeff Goldblum, along with a host of additional Hollywood glitterati including Ted Danson, Dennis Haysbert, Beverly D'Angelo, Ed Begley Jr. and Jenna Ushkowitz.

If that were not enough, Graham Phillips, Renee Olstead, Aimee Teegarden, Bella Thorne, Steve Howey and Sarah Shahi mingled with the Orange County crowd converging upon the oceanview estate in Laguna Beach of Bruce and Karen Cahill, ultimately raising more than $1 million for ocean conservation for theWashington, D.C.-based Oceana.

The Orange Coast summer event is the biggest and most important fundraiser of the year for Oceana, and was chaired with grand style by Valerie Van Cleave and Eve Kornyei Ruffatto.

Some 400 guests dedicated to protecting the world's oceans came together to be reminded yet again of the importance of ocean conservation inasmuch as the sea feeds hundreds of millions of people around the world daily.

"We need to protect the oceans to feed a world in which the population is growing by a billion people every 12 years," said Oceana Vice President John Simon. "With sensible management, the ocean can provide a daily meal for an addition 750 million people."

"I have the utmost faith after seeing and feeling the spirit of the people at this event tonight and having worked with the dedicated people at Oceana that we can save the oceans," Freeman said.

Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the legendary oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, serves as an advisor to Oceana. She welcomed the dinner crowd offering personal anecdotes.

"My grandfather always said people protect what they love and they love what they know," she said. "This community lives with the ocean every day. You swim in it. You surf in it. You walk by it and you gaze at it. You have learned to love the ocean, and by coming here tonight you are helping to protect it."

The Orange County crowd makes a significant difference. At the top of the list of donors are the Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation, David C. Copley, Newport's Tricia and Michael Berns, Cindy and Steve Fry, Harriet and Sandy Sandhu, Patricia Hansen, Wendy and Rick Aversano, Marta and Raj Bhathal, Lisa and Ed Vogel, and Ruffatto and her husband, Michael J. Ruffatto.

Major corporate sponsorship came from South Coast Plaza, Wells Fargo, Latham & Watkins LLP and Fisker of Orange County, among many additional dedicated corporate citizens.

The crowd was treated to a sumptuous al fresco dinner featuring braised beef short ribs and grilled portabello mushrooms. The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra entertained with Goldblum at the piano.

Executive committee members making the event possible included Newport's classy Sally Crockett, fashionista Michaele Hall, the elegant Diana Martin, Leslie Cancellieri, Mary Carrington, Susan Paek and Margo Smith.

Supporting the evening were Newport social standouts Julia and George Argyros, Bette and Wylie Aitkin, Janis Agopian, Olivia and Howard Abel, Christine and Larry Dodge, Inga and Mark Beder, Maralou and Jerry Harrington, Twyla and Chuck Martin, Lilly and Paul Merage, Sandi and Ron Simon, Susan and Charles Van Cleave, Sue and Ralph Stern, and Michael Botsko representing Tiffany & Co.

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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