The Crowd: CASA Orange County breaks fundraising record


Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County broke a fundraising record at its recent holiday luncheon. An impressive $425,000 was raised in support of CASA, which provides legal and counseling services to youths involved in the Orange County court system.

The Dec. 13 afternoon at Monarch Beach Resort sold out, no surprise as O.C. citizens passionate about the work of CASA are front and center year after year. Regan Phillips, chief executive of CASA-OC, joined Lori Jackson, president of Friends of CASA, in producing the successful luncheon fundraiser. They welcomed some 500 guests.

Melissa Rohani and Michelle Fisher co-chaired the event. Dimon Sanders, a former foster youth who became the 2017-18 Miss Outstanding Teen Arizona, fronted the gathering as keynote speaker. Her shining attitude and inspiring story received a rousing standing ovation.


Local celebs spotted in the crowd included designer Barclay Butera, fashion stylist Brad Goreski, and, from “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” Shannon Beador and Tamra Judge.

To learn more about the work of CASA, visit

Making a difference for O.C. youth

KidWorks, which has been improving the lives of local youths through education since 1993, is another much-admired O.C. nonprofit. Like CASA, KidWorks broke fundraising records as 2018 came to a close. The annual Foundation for Success luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Ana raised a remarkable $750,000, surely a high-water mark for an O.C. luncheon event.

Late Newport Beach developer Dan Donahue was a major KidWorks benefactor. His early dedication and financial support rallied fellow community leaders to get behind the program, which was created to support children and families living in challenging neighborhoods in central Santa Ana. The goal was to provide low-income kids with tools to learn and excel from “Pre-K to B.A.” The annual foundation event honors founder Donahue and his extended family each year by presenting the Dan Donahue Leadership Award. 2018 honors went to dedicated KidWorks advocate Steve Craig, president and chief executive of a factory outlet development firm that operates 14 centers in nine states.

“Steve’s vision and leadership have elevated the annual luncheon to a whole new level, which has been so important as it raises the majority of KidWorks’ annual after school program budget,” said David Benavides, executive director of KidWorks.

“Our future is tied to their future,” Craig responded, addressing the crowd. “These young people will grow up to be our fellow neighbors, friends and leaders. With KidWorks, the results speak for themselves.”

Additional significant support came from Kevin and Devon Martin, Todd and Natalie Pickup, representing International Bay Clubs LLC, as well as Heidi and Ruben Mendoza, Gregory and Stacey Brown family, American Career College, West Coast University, Caribou Industries, Bank of America and Donahue Schriber.

To learn more, visit

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