The Crowd: Gratitude and giving spirits abound this time of year
Gratitude takes center stage this Thanksgiving weekend on the Orange Coast.
The Harvesters, always front and center in shining a spotlight on the scourge of food insecurity in one of America’s most prosperous regions, this fall held their 29th fashion show and luncheon in support of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.
The sold-out fashion show and luncheon unfolded at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa and raised a significant $1.7 million to fight hunger in this region.
The much-anticipated fashion event produced in association with South Coast Plaza welcomed attendees gathering for a pre-show champagne reception prior to a presentation of the latest lines from designers including Lanvin, Oscar de la Renta, Versace and Stella McCartney, to name a few.
Harvesters chair Veronica Slavik greeted the full house with great poise, reminding guests that the fashion was the fun while the fundamental purpose of the day was to focus on providing families in need with a serious basic necessity: nutritious food.
The ever-gracious Debra Gunn Downing of South Coast Plaza said, “Together with our retailers, we support the effort of Harvesters and Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County in addressing hunger.”
Joining the shopping center in sponsoring the event were City National Bank, Coldwell Banker’s Casey Lesher, and many more. Since its inception, the Harvesters event has raised in excess of $12.8 million, providing an approximate 38.4 million meals over 29 years.
Seen in the fashionable and supportive crowd were Eunice Sun, Randa Kim, Susan Etchandy, Jennifer Van Bergh, Irene Martino, Jennifer Segerstrom, Laura Constantiner, Kate Carlton and Stephanie Rogers, to name only a few.
SCR Theatre’s fall season opening party
Newport Beach Country Club opened its handsome ballroom doors for patrons of South Coast Repertory Theatre who attended its annual fall season opening party.
Gala chairs Tammy and Sam Tang, and Michael Ray, greeted the some 165 guests arriving for dinner, dancing and an evening of performance entertainment in SCR style.
Actor/singer Rustin Cole Sailors, who has performed with SCR productions previously, entertained the crowd, joining vocalist Sara Stiles, a two-time Tony Award nominee whose stage credits include “Tootsie” and “Hand To God” as well as musical credits including “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Avenue Q” and others.
The pair sang new material from a work in progress accompanied by pianist Alby Potts. The non-stop excitement included a 10-piece band performing with more entertainers and filling the dance floor with patrons après dinner.
The SCR crowd dined on a poached pear and gorgonzola salad, followed by a filet mignon paired with Chilean sea bass.
Donors dining and table-hopping were Sally Anderson and Tom Rogers, Leona Aronoff Sadacca, Laurie and Steve Duncan, Valerie and Geoff Fearns and Susan Shieldkret and David Dull. Also front and center for SCR were Sarah McElroy, Lee and Harmon Kong and Giulia and Schalon Newton.
By evening’s end more than $340,000 was raised in support of SCR’s on-stage artistry along with outreach educational programs.
Opening this weekend and running through Dec. 26 is the long-standing SCR tradition, “A Christmas Carol.”
Surely one of the most important reasons for expressing gratitude at any time of the year, is for the blessing of good health.
In the O.C., doctors, hospitals, and all people providing health research, the charities and individuals assisting the suffering directly are essential to the core of life in this region.
Kure It Cancer Research event
This month Kure It Cancer Research hosted its “Let’s Save Lives” event, billed as “Legends & Legacy” that was fronted by the nonprofit’s board chairman Todd Perry.
Two former community legends, both now deceased, UCLA’s hallowed football coach Terry Donahue and USC’s Barry Hoeven, founder of Kure It, were honored by friends and advocates of cancer research.
Among the crowd raising some $165,000 with the evening “Fund-A-Kure” campaign were Diana and Mike Rapport, Brittany Barkley, Keith Strohl, retired NFL quarterback Paul McDonald and Andrea Donahue, widow of Terry Donahue, sharing in the announcement establishing the Terry Donahue Memorial Cancer Research Grant.”
The premiere grant went to Dr. Mustafa Raoof at City of Hope, who is focusing on appendiceal cancer.
Additional recent grants included a $75,000 gift awarded to USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Martin Kast from USC Norris was on hand sharing news of research being performed concentrating on cervical and throat cancer.
Todd Perry announced that Kure It currently funds 47 projects at 16 cancer centers in the U.S. and abroad. Since the late Barry Hoeven founded it in 2007, $12 million has funded programs the mostly study rare forms of cancer less in the forefront of public attention, thereby needing more support from both the public and private sectors.
Providing scholarships for students with financial challenges is surely another expression of gratitude. Paying it forward is the now common term for passing on that “leg-up” based on ones own experience with assistance or mentorship.
Trojan League of O.C. fundraiser
The 60th annual Trojan League of Orange County fundraiser in support of USC scholarships unfolded at Big Canyon Country Club, Newport Beach with major underwriting sponsorship coming from Deb Morton Lee, Kris Jones, Merrins Jones, Alice Nathanson, Liz Maxson and Trojan League President Colette Nagami.
The luncheon gathering featured keynote speaker Paul Hacorian, chief executive of TACORI, a fine jewelry company. Appropriately the luncheon was billed as “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Attending and raising funds for the next generation of students were Debbie McKenna, Lisa Grundy Johnson, Tammy Cluck, Kathy Koll Hancock, Carol Sever, Cathy Bledsoe, Pam Peterson, Suzanne Meyer and Sally Griffith.
Since 1961, the 60-year-old O.C. auxiliary of USC alum has raised and donated more than $1.3 million in funding for future USC scholars.
Need for transplants is great
One final and personal note on the gratitude monitor: Nov. 17 marked my fourth anniversary as a successful kidney transplant survivor only made possible via the selfless gift of Heidi Miller of Laguna Beach.
Shortly after recovering from the surgery, Heidi began reaching out to others in need of transplant assistance.
The need is tremendous and expanding. In the ensuing three years Heidi has facilitated multiple live transplants including one selflessly given from former Chapman University President Dr. Jim Doti to a total stranger in need through the transplant program at UCI Irvine Medical Center.
In the spirit of “pay it forward,” Heidi and I have created the Living Donor Assistance Fund, a 501 c-3 charitable entity with the purpose of providing grant funding to living donors in need of money to cover personal costs, expenses and lost income when volunteering to donate life.
Many more generous healthy people would be able to make a life-saving gift knowing that they would not suffer financially.
On May 26, 2022, in the grand ballroom of the Balboa Bay Resort, Newport Beach, underwritten by Carole Pickup, who was also the angel sponsor of the first organ donor event in 2017 that inspired Heidi to donate to me, the official launch of the grant fund is set to unfold at a gala celebration starring Jerry Mandel and The Irvine Barkley Theatre Jazz Band. Mark your calendars.
The community is invited to help make a difference and save a life. Please email Heidi Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and to get involved.
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