The Crowd: Seeing the light through philanthrophy

One of the most important charitable and social organizations in Southern California held its annual confab March 28 at the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena. The Luminaires' annual spring benefit supporting the renowned Doheny Eye Institute took on the theme of "Seaside Spectacular" for the 38th annual spring celebration, which attracted an important contingent of Orange County citizens helping to raise more than $100,000 for the cause. And that cause, being the restoration of sight for people suffering from all degrees of vision impairment, including blindness, is surely one of the most important areas of scientific research.

The vision research and ophthalmic services of the Doheny Eye Institute are internationally recognized. One of the recent known advances, known as the Argus II visual prosthesis, under the direction of Dr. Mark Humayun is restoring sight following blindness and is becoming nothing short of a miracle for some patients. On Feb. 14, the Food and Drug Administration offered final approval for Doheny to market the Argus II visual prosthesis in the United States for use in patients with vision loss caused by retinitis pigmentosa.

The upbeat celebration was chaired by Barbara Heublein and Sharon Giannotta, with décor in the hands of the talented Betsy Ulf creating an atmosphere of relaxed seaside elegance for the luncheon fashion show. Oversized palm trees were brought into the Langham ballroom, filtering rays of sunlight beaming through the tall French windows of the classic hotel. Round tables were placed along a fashion runway, which bisected the ballroom. Ice blue crushed satin tablecloths puddled at the base covered the tables surrounded by white gloss chiavari chairs. Tables were accented with vibrantly hued beach parasols in shades of hot pink, orange, lime green and sunshine yellow. Beautiful seashells were arraigned on each table to complete the beach theme.

Barbara Nielsen of Newport Beach coordinated the spring fashion show featuring the designs of Los Angeles-based couturier Lourdes Chavez. Her high fashion creations are featured in chic boutiques and major department stores throughout the United States and Canada. Nielsen was joined by Balboa Island resident Liz Shonk, who served the Doheny Eye Institute event as auctioneer, helping to raise the luncheon tally seeking the highest bidder for an ocean voyage on a private 62-foot yacht berthed in Newport Harbor and owned by Luminaires member Liz Hezlep. Luminaires president Kandi Wopschall was the highest bidder.

A number of other vendors provided auction items from boutiques, including clothing, home-decorating accessories and more as guests table-hopped and dined on a tropical lunch featuring citrus-marinated shrimp and chilled sea scallops. In the crowd supporting the Doheny Eye Institute from the Newport-Mesa community were Janet Marangi, Gail Titus, Carole Lincoln, Barbara Barnes, Bobbie Galpin, Caroline Kinkle, Ollie Lynn, Winnie Reitnouer, Marilyn Roberts, Ann Sacre, June Teal, Susan Wofford, Ruby Davis and Mary Lane.

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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