The Crowd: The '20s roar again for diabetes research

The 2014 Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) Dream Gala was billed as "Let's Misbehave," and they certainly did.

More than 500 Orange County citizens dressed to impress in Roaring Twenties period costume and danced a wild Charleston to help raise crucial funds for diabetes research, in particular a cure for Type I diabetes. Organizers created a speakeasy theme, complete with antique claw-footed bathtubs filled with gin on ice. Disneyland's popular announcer, Bill Rogers, emceed the evening, which was dedicated to O.C. citizens Janet and Carl Nolet, Jr. and Lara and Tom Giddings.

Co-chaired by Julie Hellmers, Eric Seedman and John Stoner, with assistance from honorary chair John Giovannone, the March 29 party at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort was made possible by serious donors, including Newport's Mary and Dick Allen, Toni and Steve Berlinger, Ellen Darling and Alex Conti, Jackie and Norm Kallan, and Nancy and Larry Silverberg, to name only a few.

Important corporate sponsors included ABP Capital, Black, Starr & Frost, Golden State Foods, Stoner Fox Law and Greenberg Traurig, again to name only a few. The fundraising effort included tremendous underwriting support combined with auction proceeds sold by auctioneer Jeff Stokes (including a Harry Winston ladies' watch valued at $40,000), plus an impressive $285,000 raised from generous guests putting their paddles in the air for the "fund a cure." On top of all that, funds raised were matched by donors Michelle Griffin, Tom Parker and others, resulting in phenomenal success for JDRF.

The St. Regis executive chef, Frederic Castan, joined celebrity guest chef Azmin Ghahreman in preparing a gourmet dinner, while the crowd enjoyed Jazz Age entertainment in keeping with the supper club theme. Spotted in the dinner crowd were Analisa and Bruce Albert, Terri and Doug Bender, Beth and Howard Bidna, Pat and David Lamb, Ronna and Bill Shipman, Liz and Steve Williams, Carol and Denis Crawford, Jacinta and Robert Loewen, Linda and Stathi Marcopulos, Marsha Besley-Connellan, and Sallie and Joe Black.


Seeing is believing

The blessing of sight was celebrated in grand style at the 39th annual Luminaires benefit luncheon in support of the esteemed Doheny Eye Institute. The March 19 gathering in the Crystal Room of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles was organized in part and supported by Newport Beach citizens, including gala chair Liz Hezlep and Balboa Island residents Barbara Nielsen, Liz Shonk and Susan Wofford.

More than $100,000 was raised to support Doheny Eye Institute's mission in restoring, preserving and improving human eyesight. The luncheon was dedicated to the late Dr. Stephen Ryan, a former leader of the Doheny institute.

Luncheon organizers chose a "My Fair Lady" theme for their spring affair. A pre-luncheon reception was created to resemble a busy London shopping street, attracting browsing guests to shop among an array of offered merchandise donated by generous Southern California retailers. The centerpiece of the luncheon was an elegant fashion show featuring the couture designs by Ali Rahimi of Mon Atelier. The color of the day was champagne pink with tables in the dining room draped in floor-length champagne-pink cloths with chairs covered in matching fabric. The much-in-demand Dennis Richichi of Pasadena's Jacob Maarse designed spectacular centerpieces of hot and soft pink roses, cascading English ivy and maidenhair ferns arranged in antique silver bowls.

Supporting the Luminaires and the Doheny Eye Institute were Bonnie Thomas, Grace Chao, Kathy Weber, Suzanne Sposato, Karen Mandeville, Rary Simmons, Karlyn Carson, Ollie Rados Lynn, Bobbie Galpin, Laura Perry, Mary Cooper and Kandi Wopschall, who serves as the current president of the Luminaires.

The Doheny Eye Institute was founded by Carrie Estelle Doheny in 1947, affiliated with USC under the leadership of Ryan. In 1975, the Luminaires support group was founded and led by its first president, Mary Crary, organizing an initial benefit for just 20 women at the California Club in Los Angeles.

The Luminaires takes its name from the definition of the word as "givers of light." Today, the Doheny Eye Institute, in affiliation with the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, is positioned to become America's preeminent center for ophthalmic patient care, vision research and education. The institute is scheduled to open an Orange County location at 18111 Brookhurst St. in Fountain Valley later this 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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