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The Crowd: Debutantes carry on tradition in Newport Beach

Many honored traditions of family life have been relegated to memory — from the most basic Sunday evening family dinner to the more sacred aspect of the formal engagement proposal.

Amid this shifting tide is the debutante program for young women. Once considered de rigueur for girls of a certain social class — exclusively white, Christian society — today's debutant, while still a child of privilege, finds her focus in ideals of community service and strengthening the mother-daughter bond.

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Critics might claim that change has brought a tradition that might well have vanished, like so many others, into 21st century relevance.

Across America are a number of deb programs sponsored by various philanthropic and social organizations. Among the most successful are the National Charity League Inc. debutante societies. In Newport Beach, the program flourishes.

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Recently, the Newport Chapter of National Charity League presented 33 young women at its 55th debutante ball, held at Hotel Irvine. The magical evening was the culmination of six years of dedication and countless hours of community service performed by each graduate in association with league affiliation with 30 Orange County charities.

One interesting note: The class of 33 debs ranks as one of the largest groups in the Newport's National Charity League legacy. At a time when the formal traditions seem to be diminishing, that is clearly not the case in this region.

Upwards of 500 guests in black tie and ball gowns converged for the celebration in support of the girls, which was led by 2015 ball director Kimberly Prado and husband Edward Prado. As the debs arrived for their formal presentation, league chapter President Kimberly Robertson greeted them.

Taking the arm of fathers and sponsors, 33 young women in shimmering white gowns walked the walk, ending in the St. James bow to their audience and then finishing with a waltz on the dance floor to the music of the Jay Sterling Orchestra.

As champagne was served, multiple generations of families toasted the special night, one to always remember in a tradition that may be passed along to other generations.

Families with long-standing ties to the league included deb Erin Barth sharing honors with sisters Chelsea and Shannon, who had both taken bows in earlier years. Deb Amanda Beal joined mother Susan Beal, a 1982 league debutante. Anna Hancock's three sisters, Emily, Melissa and Kari, all league debs, shared family history.

The roster of generational connection also included Amanda Chila's family. Daniella DeSantis, Molly McCunniff, Cheyenne Thies, Jaclyn Winsor and Kira Woods were among league family legacy members.

Dinner was served as the girls and their guests table-hopped. It was a civilized affair with elegant manners and perfect behavior setting the tone of the night.

"The 33 young women here have excelled in academics, athletics and extra-curricular activities while making significant contributions to our community," said Kimberly Prado. "We are so proud of them. We applaud their spirit of generosity that has marked their six years of service."

The National Charity League debs begin their journey in the seventh grade and remain steadfast through high school. Collectively, they have volunteered more than 9,000 hours of service, with many of the girls contributing up to 100 hours each year. Their academic, athletic and leadership credentials are equally impressive. Many are AP scholars, honor roll students and members of the California Scholarship Federation or National Honor Society who have gone on to colleges and universities of note.

The evening, led by master of ceremonies Keith Duarte, was supported by a dedicated committee of National Charity League women, including assistant ball director Kelly Stewart, Mary Adams, Inga Beder, Caroline Davenport, Allyson D'Eliscu, Michelle Duarte, Jenny Gehl, Janine Helman, Susan Merrell, Leslie Montgomery, Amy Owen, Kathy Purdy, Shelly Rankin and Michelle Yacoel.

Hotel Irvine began dinner service with an arugula salad dressed in Cabernet wine vinaigrette, followed by an entrée of filet mignon and grilled salmon. A white-on-white floral design incorporating hydrangeas and roses in tall silver vases created by Karla Flores of Elegant by Design captured the formal spirit of the occasion.

By the end of the night, there were plenty of joyful tears for grandparents, parents and extended relations, who came together to send their daughters off into a complicated and challenging world ready to make their way and take their place in society.

Congratulations to the 2015 debutants of the Newport chapter of the National Charity League.

The debutants also included MacKenzie Elizabeth Andrich, Carli April Corpodian, Daniella Mikaela Di Giorgio, Taylor Marie Fogarty, Bailey Michelle Godber, Mallory Kate Gyulay, Nellie Soraya Hamadani, Anna Kathleen Hancock, Aubrey Jacklynn Hart, Kathryn Rachel Junkins, Kristina Janet Junkins, Claire Elizabeth Keddington, Reece Danielle Luebke, Gabriella Elizabeth Mangano, Brooke Nicole McGee, Taylor Caroline Olson, Amanda Mae Pittman, Josephine Marie Schott, Olivia Bryn Sever, Bailey Eloise Super, Madison Max Tenebaum, Natalie Rose Ward, Brittany Elizabeth Welsh, Alice Kate Willett and Alexandra Inez Willson.

B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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