The Crowd: A golden night of caring for CHOC

They called the evening "50 Golden Years of Caring."

The 2014 Children's Hospital of Orange County Cherishes Children Gala unfolded Feb. 8 at Newport Beach's Island Hotel. The event was as glamorous as it was substantial.

In the ultra-capable hands of co-chairs Stephanie Argyros and Christine Bren, the Island Ballroom was transformed into a verdant red rose and tulip garden for the Valentine month. Dozens of perfect buds, at least six dozen at each table, were placed in vases short and tall and interspersed with clear cylinders sporting floating candles.

The majestic florals sat on tables covered in shimmering gold-green linens with coordinated china service. Walls were draped in floor-to-ceiling white curtains, creating a romantic cocoon for the crowd arriving in their pre-Valentine's Day best.

Argyros and Bren came to the CHOC event with a pedigree of first-class experience. They are among the leaders of the pack representing the next generation of O.C. philanthropy. Argyros in particular has learned well at the table of her formidable mother, Julia Argyros, arguably the premiere O.C. hostess, who, along with husband George Argyros, billionaire businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Spain under George W. Bush, has been the financial underpinnings of a variety of community causes ranging from the performing arts to healthcare.

Suffice it to say that when the Argyros and Bren names are at the helm, nothing less than perfect will do. And that was the case at the CHOC gala, which made CHOC's 50th anniversary a night to remember.

The community rallied behind the cause. A sold-out evening attracted significant underwriting from a cross-section of support all dedicated to the vitality of CHOC. Many of the citizens involved have a long-standing family affiliation with the hospital dating back to its formative years in the 1960s.

Among the most cherished are family generations of the late Charles Hester. His widow, Nora Hester, and children and grandchildren of the Hester, Robbins, Immell, Gianulia, Ensign and Hamilton families all shared in remembering how important CHOC was to Charley and how much his support meant to the children and families of O.C.

The list of supporters is long. Among the generous are Sandra Segerstrom Daniels, Heather and James Madden, Leslie and Terry Adams, Sarah and Chris Chester, Sheri and Chris Dialynas, Susan and Jeff Elghanayan, Niloofar and Bahman Fakhimi, and Monica and Chris Furman. Supporting the gala co-chairs was a committee of dedicated locals, including party décor chair Heather Madden, Jill Bolton, Kathryn Cenci, Kristina Dodge, Leyla Khoshbin, Caroline Marchant and Marsha Willis, to name only a few.

A who's-who crowd of local glitterati, including basketball great Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, philanthropist Susan Samueli, former USC and pro football quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, Disneyland Resort President Michael Colglazier and formidable CHOC donors Ava Jones and Bill Holmes, for whom the recently opened CHOC tower is named, all appeared front and center for the 50th anniversary dinner.

Guests dined on Island cuisine that began with a Greek salad followed by an entrée course of red wine-braised short ribs paired with mushroom-crusted Chilean sea bass. For dessert, a trio of treats: Oreo white chocolate cheesecake, warm carrot cake and salted caramel ice cream.

Following dinner, Grammy-winning artist Sheryl Crow entertained with a full-hour performance. CHOC President Kimberly Cripe presented the Children's Champion Award to the Ryan Seacrest Foundation for its work in developing the Seacrest Studios at the hospital. Ryan Seacrest's family members, Gary, Connie and Meredith Seacrest, accepted the honors on behalf of the TV personality and his charitable foundation.

By the end of the evening, an impressive $1.3 million was raised for CHOC.

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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