The Crowd: Major support for foster youth

In the course of a year I cover and share news on the work of hundreds of nonprofits in the community. I offer no criticism of any, even those that are blatantly social and somewhat superficial in terms of the connection between those that have the ability to donate and those that need help. Every dollar matters regardless of whether it is given to make a social statement or given out of pure altruistic generosity.

That being said, nonprofits that share a hands-on relationship with their goals are clearly the most rewarding for all involved, including the press that covers them. One of these organizations is known as 44 Women for Children. An auxiliary of the Orangewood Children's Foundation, it was founded in 1999 by community activist Susan Samueli, the wife of Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli.

Susan is a roll-up-your-selves, hands-on woman who is not into superficial appearances of any kind. The Corona del Mar resident is a wife, mother, businesswoman and community leader. She started this auxiliary because she saw a real need to help foster youth in Orange County who become emancipated from the foster care system at age 18 and have no familial support to continue their education and attend college.

The Samuelis believe in education. Their foundation has made enormous gifts to educational institutions at every level, including significant support for UC Irvine and UCLA, both of which have buildings named in their honor and programs funded by their high level of financial support.

In the decade since the 44 Women for Children was founded, Susan Samueli has played an active role, but now encourages fellow supporters to take the helm. The women gathered recently at The Island Hotel in Newport Beach for their annual fundraising luncheon. It attracted more than 220 guests at the event and was chaired this year by "44 member" Eve Kornyei.

In addition to major sponsorship from the Samueli Foundation, Eve's late partner, Stan Hanson, who died about a year ago, lent the support of his company AcrA Aerospace to the cause. Another of the major underwriters were Doug and Sandi Jackson. By the end of the afternoon the women raised more than $100,000, which will be used to fund college scholarships for former foster youth facing the world on their own.

As in years past, the event always features a heartfelt address from a former foster youth attending college on a 44 Women for Children scholarship. This year's recipient, whose name is kept anonymous to protect his or her privacy, is a student attending Cal State Fullerton.

This young woman told the crowd: "The roots of my life were never on solid ground. I was placed in foster care when I was 14 years old due to abuse within my immediate family."

She went on to say: "The most difficult part in my life was that my mother chose to be a wife first and a mother second. This scholarship has given me more than financial stability and an opportunity to pursue an education. It has uplifted me from a painful past."

The afternoon was also fronted by "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino, who won the competition in 2004 during the third season of the mega popular talent show. Her success led to two hit CD releases and a recent stint on Broadway starring in "The Color Purple." Fantasia is now working on a third CD and performing in season two of her own VH1 reality show.

The young performer used no notes as she told the crowd of her own rise from youthful struggles, including dropping out of high school, facing a severe learning disability and becoming a teen mother to a baby daughter. Barrino stressed the theme of the day, which was the significance of education, telling the audience that she returns to her high school to encourage young people to graduate and follow their dreams.

"You can overcome whatever your challenges are and succeed," she said.

Supporting the cause were Shirley Pepys, Sherri Anderson, Sue Stern, Kelly Bozza, Diane Coon, Kim Daboub, Andrea Casaw, Ann Diem, Lupe Erwin, and Karen Goldhirsh. Also front and center for the children were Peggy Holt, Susan Kinsey, Roseanne Levan, Cecily Burke, Yvette McCarthy, Margaret Morgan, and chief development officer for 44 Women for Children Carlos Leija.

When people care as much as the 44 Women for Children auxiliary, it is indeed more of a real possibility that dreams can come true for people who need support and an avenue to opportunity in life. For more information on 44 Women for Children, please contact Sara Bazant at the Orangewood Children's Foundation: (714) 619-0206.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World