Column: The Crowd: Luminaires raise funds for Doheny Eye Institute


I recently watched a PBS documentary interviewing Andrea Bocelli at home in Tuscany with his wife and children.

The camera panned his ancient stone farmhouse and garden lush with verdant citrus trees. An antique fountain spilled water over its edges into a pond as his beautiful wife and children entered the frame of the interview’s lens with Bocelli on the arm of his wife.

Dark glasses covered his eyes as he spoke into the camera sharing anecdotes about growing up on this property that had been in his family for generations.

Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma and then at age 12 he lost his vision completely during a football game.


I was saddened by the fact that this talented man had never seen the beauty of his wife or his children.

Vision is a precious gift. Protecting eyesight and restoring vision is the important work of the Doheny Eye Institute of Southern California with a reputation that commands national and even international acclaim.

The Institute has been on the leading and cutting edge of ophthalmologic research and treatment. One of the prominent local support affiliates of Doheny Eye has been raising funds for five decades helping to make the medical progress a reality.

They call themselves the Luminaires and a recent spring event brought this volunteer support group together for its 43rd annual spring benefit which was billed as “An Easter Parade.”

More than 250 guests from both Los Angeles and Orange County converged upon the storied California Club in downtown Los Angeles for a fashion luncheon raising an excess of $110,000 for Doheny Eye.

The president of Luminaires Liz Shonk of Balboa Island welcomed fellow dedicated Newport Beach patronesses including Barbara Neilsen and Susan Wofford. Benefit chair Betsy Ulf bestowed appreciation upon volunteers including Mary Cooper, Barbara Heublein, Linda Hubbard, Judy Kloner, Nancy Marino and Winnie Reitnouer.

Also front and center for Doheny Eye were Fran Biles, Sonia Hathaway, Suzanne Sposato, Bonnie Thomas, Linda Moore and Kandi Wopschall.

The ladies enjoyed an Easter-themed luncheon with decor appropriately designed to represent the bountiful spring season. Tables were centered with moss green Easter baskets overflowing with hydrangeas, roses, hyacinths and ranunculus. Los Angeles-based fashion designer Lourdes Chavez presented her spring collection to the delight of the luncheon crowd.

Institute dignitaries in the crowd included Christopher Conway, Marissa Goldberg, Dr. Michael D. Ip and his wife, Liz McLaughlin, and Dr. John and Tisha Irvine. Dr. Irvine is a specialist in cornea and external eye diseases.

To learn more about the work of the Doheny Eye Institute, visit

CASA breaks records

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) held gala “Black and White Ball” attracting more than 400 guests converging upon the Pasea Hotel & Spa Huntington Beach and raising a net amount of more than $1,157,000.

CASA’s mission is to protect abused, abandoned and neglected children whose lives are impacted in Orange County by the complicated legal system.

Children supported under the wing of CASA are assisted by volunteer advocates, experts in dealing with matters of the law and the courts. The “Black and White Ball” was chaired by nine of CASA’s past gala champions.

The success of the evening belonged to Dana Chou, Nancy Eaton, Cathy Morrison, Lourdes Nark, Kay Patel, Urvashi Patel, Brenda St. Hilaire, Wendy Tenebaum and Lauren Wong. The ladies chose a roaring ’20s theme they billed as “Back In Time.”

The evening began with a lavish cocktail reception featuring a silent auction with more than 100 items up for bid. A casino gaming atmosphere kept the party in high gear as the Satin Dollz Band and dancers accentuated the ’20s atmosphere as the crowd departed the cocktail reception and entered the grand ballroom decorated in black, white and gold decor.

Honored guests at the 2018 CASA gala included James Previti and Bobbie Howe who were named as “Children’s Champions.”

Regan Phillips, CASA CEO, presented the Outstanding Corporation Award to John Hohener of Microsemi.

Also honored was Dana Point resident David Nusz, named as “Advocate of the Year.” Nusz has served as a CASA volunteer since 2009. He shared an emotional speech recounting a mentor that helped him through his childhood and made a major impact on his well-being and his future life.

“I didn’t have a dad,” Nusz said. “My mentor Ben gave me the only job I had ever had as a young man until I moved to California to go to law school which he paid for. My 15-year-old son is named Ben and my 19-year-old daughter Morgan would have been named Ben if it was completely up to me. Bottom line is that I owe Ben my life, and most importantly he inspires me to serve and give back through CASA.”

Founded in 1985 with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, CASA serves some 700 children annually who move through the court system as a direct cause of abuse and neglect.

To learn more, visit

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