Column: The Crowd: Jazz concert raises funds for High Hopes Brain Injury Program


On a balmy July evening in Newport Beach, more than 1,000 local citizens converged on the lawns of the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Hotel for the 19th annual Eric Marienthal and Friends Jazz Concert.

Benefiting from the massive turnout was an organization well known in the community as the High Hopes Brain Injury Program.

Since 1998, the annual event has raised more than $1.5 million for High Hopes Brain Injury. The jazz concert under the stars featured Eric Marienthal with special guest artists Oleta Adams and David Benoit.

Prior to the show, VIP donors were treated to a dining experience catered by Tulsa Rib Co.

As the crowd enjoyed dinner, the Ron Kobayashi Trio entertained featured vocalist Mary Desmond who also happens to be the daughter of Mark Desmond, the director and developer of the High Hopes Brain Injury Program.

Following dinner, the crowd moved to the Hyatt’s amphitheater of grass for the program emceed by Mark Desmond joining radio disc jocky Talaya Trigueros from 94.7 FM the Wave.

The 2017 summer concert event brought in around $150,000 for High Hopes due to the sponsorship of individuals and corporations including Robert Holman, Tom and Dani White, City Bank, Xerox, the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach among others. Funds will assist High Hopes Brain Injury Programs dedicated to the rehabilitation of people who have been devastated by brain injury.


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Olympic gold sprinkled over the O.C.

Olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles fronted the 13th annual 44 Women for Orangewood Scholarship Luncheon held recently at the Disneyland Hotel Anaheim.

More than 400 guests gathered under the leadership of event co-chairs Carey Clawson and Sona Shah.

Among the event’s dedicated women raising vital dollars to provide scholarships for foster youth were Karen Goldhirsh, Andrea Casaw, Heidi Leonard, Brenda St. Hilaire and Shahrzad Bina. Also front and center for the cause were Kimberly Kirksey, Jeanne Boyce, Denni David and Peggy Holt, who are all members of the 44 Women board.

The highlight of the luncheon event was the address by Biles attending with her adopted mother Nellie.

Also addressing the audience was Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette Verastegui, a former Orangewood Scholarship recipient who was placed into foster care at age 13.

The judge shared with the audience that at age 18 she had aged out of foster care and was subsequently homeless. Her residence consisted of “couch surfing,” and without the assistance of Orangewood she would not have been able to enter UC Irvine, eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree before heading to UC Berkeley for a law degree.

Biles also shared her history in the foster care system.

At age 3, she and her siblings were removed from the care of their mother and adopted by her grandfather Ron and his wife Nellie, who became mom and dad to the children.

Biles was interviewed onstage in front of the crowd by journalist Vikki Vargas, Orange County bureau chief for NBC4 News.

Biles shared: “I believe everything happens for a reason. Being adopted into this family was the best thing that ever happened to me. They are the foundation for all of my success.”

To address the foster youth attending the luncheon in the crowd, Biles said: “Visualize your goals, work hard toward them, and make sure that they are authentically you. You can’t go back, you can only look forward.”

Major sponsors of the luncheon were the Samueli Foundation and Disneyland Resort.

Spotted in the crowd were Susan Samueli, Twila True, Jill Bulton from the Disneyland Resort, Wendy Arciero from the Anaheim Ducks, Valerie Roos, Sandra Davis, Cecily Burke, Gina Galasso, Greg Dunlap, and Chris Simonsen, CEO of the Orangewood Foundation.

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