OUR LAGUNA: An elegant and artistic Masquerade for marine mammals

The Marine Mammal Center on Laguna Canyon Road has rescued and cared for 166 seals and sea lions so far this year.

It takes money, and a chunk of it was raised at the third annual Marine Mammal Masquerade on Sunday at Mozambique restaurant.

An estimated $67,000 raised at the masquerade will help provide medical care for marine mammals like Skippy, a Pacific Harbor Seal, rescued May 8, weighing 21 pounds and released back into the ocean Sept. 25, weighing 77 pounds — or Moonbeam, a Northern elephant seal that weighed 58 pounds when rescued March 19 and 261 pounds when released Sept. 29.

Mary Ferguson, vice chairwoman of the center’s board of directors, chaired the masquerade. Center Director of Development and Marketing Melissa Sciacca was the staff chairwoman of the event.

She welcomed guests along with volunteers JoAnn Smith, Lynn Friedman, Sarah Nelson and Deborah Cohen. Animal Care Supervisor and Development Coordinator Debbie MacCarter and Michele Hunt, who started as a volunteer at the center in 1989 and worked her way up to become the full-time director of operations and animal care, also volunteered their time at the masquerade.

The event began with a cocktail reception and included a silent auction, buffet, live auction, entertainment and an opportunity prize drawing.

Teen volunteers Lauren Henry and Briana Gibbs assisted with the silent auction. Henry became interested in the plight of marine mammals when she was 5 and read — yes, she was reading before she went to kindergarten — about the effects of El Niño.

Gibbs became involved at age 7, when she was taken on a school field trip to the center. She later attended the center’s Camp Pinniped.

“I will volunteer there when I get old enough,” Gibbs said.

Guests were invited to peruse the marine-mammal-themed donations to the silent auction while sipping wine and sampling Mozambique hors d’oeuvres: slices of petite pesto pizza, miniature beef kabobs and samosas.

Forty-one artists donated pieces to the silent auction, including Cherril Doty, who created a jeweled mask of from recycled items, found objects, paint and paper; Louis Longi, whose cast bronze mask was valued at $1,200; Molly Hutchings, inspired by traditional quilt patterns that she painted onto a butterfly-shaped mask; and Jan Sattler, whose cunning ceramic head of a harbor seal was among the first on which a bid was made.

Mia Moore and Shelley Evans, who have many of the same collectors and travel together, shared their pleasure in participating in the silent auction.

“It stretched us,” said Moore, a Festival of Art exhibitor since 1999.

Evans’ “Birds of a Feather” was reminiscent of African art.

“It is good to think outside the box,” Evans said.

Betty Haight and Stephanie Cunningham donated Akaboji Spirit masks. September McGee’s mixed-media mask composed of gold leaf, acrylics and pearls was titled “With Wings We Can Learn to Fly and Laugh and Love.” So September.

Patty and John Enfield donated a colorful tray, “So Many Masks in the Yard” — way too pretty to be brought out only to serve drinks.

Also among the donors: Julita Jones, Joan Corman, city Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, Patti Klingenmeier, Patti Ohsland, Olivia Batchelder, Michael Tauber, and center volunteer Erica Kremer, who donated a necklace she created of jade and pearls, with an antique clasp to the live auction as well as a mask to the silent auction.

Donors to the live auction included 230 Forest Avenue; Aveda and Blow Salon; Hearts of Montage; Cindy Prewitt and Laguna Beach Live!; Coastline Pilot columnist and surfer James Pribram, Cole Simler, and the Surfrider Foundation; Surf & Sand and Splashes Restaurant; Vacation Village; MacArthur Place Inn and Spa; Nickel & Nickel Winery; Royal Caribbean International; and Blantyre, a Relais and Chateaux hotel outside Boston.

Bonnie and center board member Chris Lutz donated seven days in a Mammoth Mountain condominium. Ginny and Rich Linting donated a week in a restored 14th Century Tuscan hamlet, with luxurious service, valued at $5,000.

Mozambique offered the services of Executive Chef Elena Anglelides for a dinner party for 10 in the restaurant’s private dinning room. Guests will be picked up and delivered home by the Mozambique shuttle — valued at $2,500.

Baja Expedition offered a week trip for two to Magdelena Bay during the gray whale birthing season. Value, $2,900.

Bidders who exceed the fair market value listed for the items can take a tax deduction on the amount over the stated value.

Tickets for the opportunity prize — a seven-day Holland American Alaskan cruise for two — sold for $50 each or three for $100, limited to 1,000 tickets.

Results of the auctions and the prize drawing were not available at deadline for this week’s Coastline Pilot, which was a media sponsor of the event, along with the Daily Pilot and Laguna Beach Magazine.

Special thanks went to Platiumum Pinniped sponsors MacGillivray Freeman Films and Ron and Santina Davies; gold sponsors Mary and Joe Ferguson and the Lintings; and silver sponsors Arno and Suzi Chauvel, the Lutzes and Athens Group; Susan Reese, who designed the invitation and event program; Judy Bijlani and the Visitors Bureau and the city for on-going support; and the honorary host committee: Stephanie and center board Director Emeritus John Cunningham, Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, Mayor Jane Egly and Ruben Flores.

Also recognized: Dorothy Palmer; Gary and Arts Commissioner Nancy Beverage, wearing a beautiful mask; and Russell and Betty Benson for their generous contribution to the nursery and intensive car project at the center.

The center is a nonprofit organization dedicated not only to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals stranded along the Orange County coastline, but also to increase public awareness of the marine environment through education and research. Donations are welcomed.

Among the guests: Tom Klingenmeier, former Mayor Wayne Peterson and Arts Commissioner Terry Smith, Kathleen and Gregg Abel, Leslie and Laguna College of Art & Design President Dennis Power, Verna Rollinger, City Councilwoman Toni Iseman and Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Kinsman, a supporter of the center for 30 years.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; hand-deliver to Suite 22 in the Lumberyard, 384 Forest Ave.; call (949) 494-4321, fax (949) 494-8979 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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