The Crowd: Reaching out to children in need

On this week heralding 2014, folks are busy making resolutions to lose weight, get a Life Lift, stop smoking and win the lotto. But the most important resolution of all is for adults to take care of children. In America, there are more than 400,000 foster youth hoping for, praying for, a mother and a father. Here in Orange County, one of the most affluent sectors in the nation, we have our share of very needy children. During the holiday season, one organization among many that are dedicated to the welfare of children gathered together its donors and supporters, as it has done year after year after year, to raise funds to support the needs of children cared for by Childhelp.

The Orange County chapter of Childhelp attracted 450 guests for its fund-raising luncheon titled "Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child." The event unfolded at the Westin South Coast Plaza chaired by Gina Van Ocker and Joy Whitlock-Estrada. Childhelp chapter president Kristen James welcomed the crowd, including some very special ladies: Diana Miner, Sharon Grimes, Linda Colton, Debbie Benedict, Sandra Ayres, Karen Littlefair, Mary Kay Groff, Cathy Heck, Pamela Paul and Patti Edwards.

Each year, the Childhelp event committee invites holiday vendors to create "pop-up" boutiques in line with the theme of the party. Local ladies do a little holiday shopping, with a portion of the sales assisting the cause. Many of the vendors offer one-of-a-kind items for sale that would not be found in stores.

In addition, Childhelp members assemble themed gift baskets featuring handcrafted holiday treats, which sell to guests bringing in additional funds for the Childhelp kids. It must be noted that supporters of this cause take the needs of the children to heart. Many have donated for many years and always turn out in support of fund-raising events. The list is long, but some of the honorable crew include Nancy Cardin, Nancy Whitlock, Mary Allyn Dexter, Katherine Meredith, Pam Pharris, Cleo Bluth, Linda Brechtel, Debra Violette, Shan Vincent and Joyce Simon.

The most important aspect of the event was the introduction of guest speaker Stephanie Canada, a graduate of the Childhelp Costa Mesa group home. Canada came to Childhelp in 2009, one of eight children whose parents were deceased. She was 12, abused and neglected, having spent most of her young life in eight different foster care settings before coming to Childhelp.

Mentored by Miner, one of Childhelp's dedicated "Special Friends," Stephanie began to see her life change as she realized she could overcome her own adversity, setting her focus on education and achieving grades that would take her to college. Graduating high school with honors, Canada is currently enrolled in college and seeking a license as a radiology technician. Addressing the audience, she held back tears, which were not so easy to hold back for the 450 guests listening to her story. The crowd offered a standing ovation at the end of her talk.

Corporate sponsorship for the event included a grand prize $2,000 shopping spree from South Coast Plaza. Additional sponsors providing gifts and opportunity prizes included Louis Vuitton, David Yurman, Roberto Cavalli, Roger Vivier, Mizuno Golf, Marni and Bally. To learn more about the work of Childhelp, visit its website at Wishing Newport-Mesa readers a happy and healthy New Year.

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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