The Crowd: The Carousel Ball spins for a cause

Some 30 years ago, my wife and I traveled to Denver for an annual gala hosted by Barbara and Marvin Davis, which they called "The Carousel Ball." Fast forward three decades and the Carousel Ball still unfolds annually, now in Beverly Hills with Barbara and committee at the helm.

Marvin, Denver oil man and former owner and chairman of 20th Century Fox Studios, passed away a number of years ago. The ball, which originated in their hometown of Denver, raised millions of dollars at a time when a charity event was considered a success raising $50,000. These were the Reagan Years, and the Davises' connections then and now brought in a formidable roster of Hollywood and Washington celebrities mixing in with many of the biggest names in corporate America.

That's the back story. The Carousel Ball was created to raise money to fund research and find a cure for type 1 juvenile diabetes. As with many causes backed by prominent Americans, there was a very personal motivation. The Davises' youngest child, a daughter, suffered from the disease. For a number of years back in the 1980s, Marvin would address his guests and tell them that the substantial money they had donated was going to find a cure within the next five years. That was more than 30 years ago, and there is still no cure.

Last week in Orange County, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation held its annual fundraising gala at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel attracting 350 donors and netting an impressive $450,000 for type 1 diabetes research. The Davises were instrumental in creating national awareness for an insidious health issue that, today, has become something of a national epidemic. Groups such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and its counterparts throughout the country, work tirelessly year-round raising much-needed funds that go to a variety of experimental scientific projects at such places as the National Institutes of Health as well as prominent clinics, drug companies and medical schools.

In Orange County, organizers billed the event as "Lighting the Way to a Cure" and honored Wells Fargo for its considerable support of the cause. Again, the cash contributions from corporate America remain crucial for moving the research further ahead. The women in charge are known as the Dream Guild, founded in 2005 by Jennifer Condas, Elyse Roberts and Adrienne Thomas. Initially, the three women attracted 100 of their friends to join in with the quest. Today, the guild is one of the most active charitable organizations in the region, and its efforts have raised and donated more than $1 million to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The 2013 Dream Gala was chaired by JDRF board member Cindi Morales, who welcomed Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson as the evening's special guest speaker. The beauty queen shared her personal struggle living with type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed in 1993 and has used her title and celebrity over the past decade to raise more than $26 million for diabetes research.

Major sponsors of the evening included Mary and Dick Allen, Toni and Steve Berlinger, Missy and Chris Callero, Ellen Darling and Alex Conti, Nancy and Larry Silverberg and corporate donors including CBRE, Toyota, Union Bank, Pimco and Neiman Marcus, to name only a few.

The Children's Hospital of Orange County Follies (CHOC Follies), hit the stage for the 16th year with a show titled "Viva CHOC Vegas." The massive stage production with a cast of some 100 local performers took over the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College for a three-day run, bringing the total to-date follies donation to Children's Hospital in excess of $6 million, according to CHOC Follies associate producer Lois Augustine. At the conclusion of the musical revue, CHOC Follies founder and executive producer Gloria Zigner told the audience that they would be back again next year for a 17th annual production. Both the cast and the audience cheered.

Co-chaired by Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, Dale Skiles and SueAnn Cross, the production, while corny to the hilt, featured an amazing effort by a non-pro cast singing and dancing their hearts out to entertain the crowd. Talent standouts included Susan Crouse in the role of Lufthansa, Kerry Melachouris doing a spoof on Bette Midler, Nancy Livingston as Babylon, Mia Maffei as Princess Ayyam, Juliet Schulein as Chita and Steven Hirsch as Gabriel.

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

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