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Column: The Crowd: Childhelp keeps the faith for 60 years

Sara O’Meara, who co-founded Childhelp, Madeline Gussman, Yvonne Fedderson, who also co-founded Childhelp, and Beverly Cohen attend the benefit for the faith-based organization that helps children in Orange County and across the globe.
(Photo by Tony Lattimore)

There is a well-known, often-espoused conservative expression used to describe one’s moral compass: “Faith, family, country.”

In this new age how one defines “faith” and “country” differ. And while the definition of family has broadened to include a multitude of human relationships, the critical importance of family in human relations remains. Reflecting on the finite human span of life on this planet, family is everything. And so it is no wonder that human beings are wired to cherish their young.

Healthy, nurtured children represent everything important in life. They are the basic bottom line core of humanity.

For the past 60 years in Orange County, Childhelp has perhaps best exemplified this belief. A faith-based Christian confederation, rescuing children suffering abuse and neglect, regardless of race, religion or national origin, was founded at a time America was embroiled in the Korean War by two young actresses who had volunteered to go overseas entertaining American GIs. Yvonne Fedderson and Sara O’Meara found an unexpected life-long purpose far more important than singing and dancing for the troops. Discovering countless orphan children living on the street in battle-torn Korea, many fathered by American soldiers and born of Korean women, then abandoned, ostracized by society and left to fend for themselves, Fedderson and O’Meara took action.


Sara O’Meara, Patti Edwards and Yvonne Fedderson attend the event in support of Childhelp.
(Photo by John Watkins)

The women founded Childhelp in 1959 with the support of Hollywood influence of the day. Almost immediately, numerous Korean orphans were rescued and brought to the U.S., and over years following the end of the war, the mission continued. Today, Childhelp operates on a global platform assisting literally millions of children. In America, the organization’s emphasis is a mission to end child abuse and neglect, which has become criminally pervasive. The exponential growth in numbers of cases of child abuse is an affront to humanity.

It is no wonder that passion propels the Childhelp family to move forward. The task remains even more challenging today.

Recently, the Childhelp family of friends, donors and advocates came together at the Fashion Island Hotel to recognize its 60-year anniversary milestone. Fedderson and O’Meara were front and center.


“Thank you all so much. Your support over 60 years means everything for the children,” Fedderson said as the luncheon fashion show event commenced. O’Meara stepped in interrupting, “Oh my, I can’t believe we’re still here after 60 years!” The crowd of more than 365 patrons in the ballroom roared.

O’Meara’s comment summed up the passion, the dedication of those involved. The Orange County chapter of Childhelp’s national reach is one of the most active with many members involved for decades, some for as many as 40 years. Among the shining stars are Patti Edwards, who co-chaired the 60th event with Tami Smith. Other distinguished member-donors in attendance included super-underwriters Howard and Olivia Abel, Michael and Jacquie Casey and Madeline Gussman.

Long-time supporters include the remarkable and ultra-philanthropic Julia Argyros, Beverly Cohen, Suki McCardle, Terry Schereyer, Barbara Ganahl, Christine Bren, Erin Minkoff and Christine Johnson. Also on the A-list were Cleo Booth, Nancy Youngman, Eileen Saul, Libby Werner, Debbie Drucker Nesbitt, Janet Ronenberg, Valaree Wahler and Patty McDonald. Never to be forgotten is the Crean Foundation, which represented the memories of the late John and Donna Crean, whose generosity had a significant impact on the lives of children and families in the community for more than half a century.

The highlight of the 60th anniversary affair was a chic runway fashion show presented by South Coast Plaza, which Childhelp chapter president Julie Adams kicked off with a special nod to SCP and representative Katherine Cenci for the center’s years of support. The high-energy parade of spring pre-a-porter for both women and men hit the catwalk, which designers had laid out in an elevated, zig-zag pattern moving between the tables of the ballroom front to back. Every patron had a virtual front row seat. Participating in the show were iconic brands Bally, Yurman, Escada, Intermix, Lafayette 148 New York, Maje, Saks, Max Mara, Sandro, Tadashi Shoji and Ted Baker London.

After all was said and done, a net total of $650,000 was raised. Funds will go to support the Childhelp services at Group Homes in Costa Mesa and the Childhelp Merv Griffin Village in Beaumont. Making this significant tally possible were volunteers Nancy Cardin, Mary Allyn Dexter, Joy Estrada, Kristen James, Diana Miner, Carol Parkard, Dale San Fillipo, Joyce Simon, Debra Violett, Gina Van Ocker, Pam Pharris, Katherine Meredith, Jennifer Kite, Kelly Haugen, Diane Garza, Iris Asbury and Susan Earlabaugh.

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