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The Crowd: Soka University of America raises scholarship funds at peace gala

The Crowd: Soka University of America raises scholarship funds at peace gala
Jim Peterson, Paul Pickle, Danny Habuki and Sheila Peterson at Soka University of America’s 2017 Peace Gala and Garden Party. (Photo by Robert Rooks)

At a time when the nation is so divided, politically speaking, an event in South County displayed a very different tone — a tone of unity and inclusion that allowed for a meeting of diverse minds with the ultimate and overriding goal of fostering peace in the world.

It was Soka University of America’s 13th annual Peace Gala and Garden Party on its campus in Aliso Viejo.

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The Oct. 14 event began with a cocktail reception in Soka’s Founder’s Hall Art Gallery, co-chaired by founders of the Soka Gala committee Joan May and Dita Shemke.

The fall event attracted hundreds of Soka devotees, contributing $300 and more to the Soka student scholarship fund.

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Ranked as the No. 1 university for the money nationwide by collegefactual.com, Soka has a policy that no student accepted coming from a family making less than $60,000 per year must pay tuition. It is a promise made possible through events like The Peace Gala.

TV newscaster Fritz Coleman and emcee Paige Awawa supported Soka University of America.
TV newscaster Fritz Coleman and emcee Paige Awawa supported Soka University of America. (Photo by Robert Rooks)

The crowd attended an opening reception and silent auction in the gallery alongside Soka President Daniel Habuki who welcomed special guests of the night including NBC4 News weatherman Fritz Coleman, who served as emcee of the affair.

Habuki and chairs May and Shemke invited the guests to cross over the campus bridge covering Peace Lake for dinner and entertainment.

The crowd was seated in the garden for a multi-course dinner with entertainment by Chris Mann, a recent finalist on television show “The Voice.”

Mann will be seen on upcoming PBS specials including “A Mann For All Seasons” and “Home For Christmas.”

Event co-chair Joan May, entertainer Chris Mann and co-chair Dita Shemke raised funds for Soka student scholarships.
Event co-chair Joan May, entertainer Chris Mann and co-chair Dita Shemke raised funds for Soka student scholarships. (Photo by Robert Rooks)

Dawn Marie Katsonis handled the live auction with grace, as all in the crowd cheered the 16th anniversary of Soka University in Orange County.

On hand for the event was one of the university founders, Daisaku Ikeda, who commented, “The ultimate goal of a Soka education is to foster people of character who continuously strive for the greatest goal — that of peace.”

For more information, visit www.soka.edu.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Global Center for Women and Justice Director Sandra Morgan present Patti Edwards with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the €œPriceless€ Luncheon.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Global Center for Women and Justice Director Sandra Morgan present Patti Edwards with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the €œPriceless€ Luncheon. (Photo by Ann Chatillon)

The Island Hotel, Newport Beach, was the setting for Vanguard University’s annual fall Priceless Luncheon.

The event raised $225,000 in support of the Global Center For Women and Justice, an organization focused on ending human trafficking. More than 300 passionate guests came together for a serious purpose guided by Vanguard University President Michael Beals.

Co-chaired by Gwyn Hoyt and Helen Steinkamp, major event underwriting came from community leaders David Melilli, Deborah Anderson, and Patti and James Edwards, among others.

Patti Edwards was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award for her decades of work fighting child abuse of every kind.

Another young woman, Oree Freeman, a survivor of child sex trafficking, was presented with The Young Leader award for her work preventing other young people from becoming victims. Freeman serves on the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children State Advisory Board.

2017 Priceless Luncheon co-chairs Gwyn Hoyt and Helen Steinkamp.
2017 Priceless Luncheon co-chairs Gwyn Hoyt and Helen Steinkamp. (Photo by Ann Chatillon)

Also recognized at the luncheon were Joyce Capelle who received the Outstanding Individual Award and The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force honor with the Outstanding Organization award.

Special guests at the event included Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Sgt. Juan Reveles of the Anaheim Police Department and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, and director of the Global Center for Women and Justice Sandra Morgan.

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