Save Our Youth is ready to celebrate another year of helping students succeed with all the trappings of a good party: margaritas, delicious food and an inspiring story.
SOY is hosting its fourth annual Fiesta on Thursday evening to celebrate helping students on Costa Mesa's Westside raise their grades, go to college and stay out of trouble.
"It's a celebration of SOY," said Mary Cappellini, the event coordinator.
SOY was created in 1993 in response to escalating gang problems on the Westside. Over the years the organization, which maintains a center on the Rea Elementary School campus, has evolved to include a successful academic scholarship program.
In September, the nonprofit was hit hard after its longtime anonymous donor had to withdraw financial support.
The organization had to cut deep to keep its doors open, stopping many of its activities, cutting nearly half of its small staff and, most significantly for the students, slashing the financial support it can offer.
The Fiesta is SOY's largest fundraiser, which last year brought in about $30,000. Officials hope to surpass that amount this year.
Executive Director Trevor Murphy said SOY officials will assess how much they raise during the Fiesta to see what they need to keep the doors open.
"We're still hanging in there," he said.
Despite having to cut its program, the Fiesta has grown.
The event starts at 5 p.m. with cocktail hour on an outdoor patio and Ivan Calderon, Taco Rosa's owner, cooking up appetizers on the spot. Taco Rosa's chefs will also cater dinner, which features three buffets.
There will also be a silent auction and an opportunity drawing to win a trip to Catalina.
The evening will close with a short program by co-founder Jean Forbath, Murphy and keynote speaker Paloma Bautista, a SOY alumna and class of 2007 Costa Mesa High School graduate.
Bautista, 22, recently graduated from UC Irvine and was accepted at USC for a master's degree in social work.
Without SOY, Bautista didn't see college as a realistic option.
"They really guided me when I felt lost and didn't know who to lean on," she said.
If You Go
What: Fiesta, an annual fundraiser for Save Our Youth (SOY)
When: 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Halecrest Park Clubhouse, 3107 Killybrooke Lane, Costa Mesa. Park in the Killybrooke Elementary School lot.
Cost: $50 in advance or $60 at the door. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
Information: Buy tickets at http://www.save-our-youth.org