The Crowd: Childhelp’s ‘Legends of Hollywood’ fundraiser raises over $375,000 for child abuse prevention

Childhelp 2019 gala
Childhelp 2019 fall gala chairs Joy Estrada, Janet Ronnenberg and Gina Van Ocker at The Resort at Pelican Hill on Oct. 19.
(John Watkins)

The story is now well known. Childhelp, a child abuse prevention nonprofit, was founded in 1959 by Hollywood stars Yvonne Fedderson and Sara O’Meara after they went on a Hollywood U.S.O. tour in Tokyo and came across 11 orphans on the streets who had no place to go.

Rallying Hollywood influence in the 1960s, they raised money to support them and to build more orphanages in Japan.

Childhelp became a powerhouse charity in Hollywood, supported by powerful players including Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Art Linkletter, Merv Griffin and Don Fedderson. As Childhelp’s visibility spread, so did its fundraising, enabling the cause to reach far beyond Hollywood.

As the world evolved into the 21st century, so did Childhelp. While it remains a very strong Christian-based charity, its doors are open to all, and today its supporters and donors represent a broad spectrum of society.


They are serious about their mantra: “for the love of a child.” That’s the bottom line.

In 2019, Childhelp has many local chapters. Orange County happens to be one of the most supportive.

On Oct. 19, the dedicated came together at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast to honor co-founders Fedderson and O’Meara at the O.C. chapters sixth annual fall gala.


Fittingly, they labeled the affair “Legends of Hollywood,” as their co-founders and many of the principal donors certainly are. Their major group home in Beaumont bears the name Childhelp Merv Griffin Village.

Co-chaired by Gina Van Ocker, Joy Estrada and honorary chair Janet Ronnenberg, more than 250 guests converged on Pelican Hill for an evening of dining, dancing and donating.

A net amount over $375,000 will go to Childhelp programs.

In the generous crowd were super donors Jacquie and Michael Casey, Patti and Jim Edwards, Christine Johnson, Jeannie Hidey, Patricia and Brent Ford, and Becky and Gary Cooper. Also supporting the cause were guests of the Cleo A. Bluth Foundation, the Degler Family, and major underwriters Janet and Cliff Ronnenberg.

Special Hollywood guests of the evening were dedicated Childhelp ambassadors Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd from ABC TV’s mega hit “Dancing With The Stars.” They joined NASCAR’s Paulie Harraka and mingled with the local crowd.

Spotted on the red carpet were Linda and Jay Burns, Diana and Chris Miner, Pam and Bud Pharris, Shan and Alix Vincent, Brad Hinman, Mary Allyn Dexter, Jill Glick, Glenn Taman and Isaac Zfaty.

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