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Column: The Crowd: National Charity League Juniors cement commitment to giving early in life

The National Charity League Juniors recently held a fashion show and benefit featuring sixth-graders Mackenzie Dollander, Irelyn Quick, Kate Sloman, Sofia Walker, Gwen Sheward, Sienna Ivy, Megan Bartz and Matisse Braun.
(Photo by Ann Chatillon)

As the spring fashion shows on the coast go, this one is a topper. The 2019 mother-daughter fashion luncheon produced by National Charity League Juniors unfolded on a recent Saturday in the ballroom of the Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach. Themed “Into The Woods,” and chaired by Cristina Contreras, Cari Head and Kristin Sheward, the uber chic, dressed-to-impress crush was the ultimate expression of privilege. Stunning young mothers in simple, sleeveless designer frocks, thousand-dollar sandals and the proper sunglasses, escorted beautiful children who had come to model spring finery in all shades of the pastel color wheel. It was a modern-day homage to the Gatsby era.

In decades past such a display of style, privilege and social maneuvering had no purpose other than to simply be a part of the chosen crowd. Today, it is different. Different in a much more positive way. Today, the privilege comes with a call to find purpose. That purpose is a connection to community service. The essence of the message of NCL Juniors is to create a bond between generations passing on the ideal of noblesse oblige, meaning privilege comes with duty, an obligation to serve, to give back, to make one’s community a better place to live for all.

Many may make fun of the concept, call it old-fashioned, irrelevant. Yet it is a very real and more important today than can be explained. American society is at a breaking point. Income inequality, homelessness, addiction, racial divide, a seething undercurrent of public anger with government deemed unable to provide answers make vital any community effort by local citizens to impact change, provide assistance to those in need.

Co-Chairs for the National Charity League Juniors fashion show Cari Head, Cristina Contreras, Kristin Sheward stand with NCL Juniors President Sally Bartz.
(Photo by Ann Chatillon)

Underneath the glorious display of spring fashion comes a financial tally of some $70,000 raised by the ladies earmarked for important causes: the High Hopes head injury program, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) and the Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center at Orange Coast College. NCL Juniors has been quietly raising significant funds for these not-so-glamorous, not-so-privileged basic needs, helping countless children and families for decades. That is why fashion shows and fancy luncheons attended by fortunate folks who can afford designer clothes matter. We all forget that “the mirror has two faces.”

The annual spring luncheon-fashion event comes with another purpose. It is a rite of passage honoring outgoing sixth-grade girls who have been members of the Juniors program with their mothers, now advancing and carrying on the service tradition of the National Charity League. There these young women will dedicate serious volunteer hours to different community needs as part of their curriculum and formative years. Lessons learned and experience gained will impact college choice and life-long values.

NCL Juniors President Sally Bartz welcomed the fashionable crowd and acknowledged support from Fashion Island stores, including Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, Joie, Peek and Rebecca Taylor. Sixth-grade graduating girls on the runway with their mothers, each sharing a personal experience about their time as an NCL junior, included Megan Bartz, Matisse Braun, Mackenzie Dollander, Sienna Ivey, Irelyn Quick, Gwen Sheward, Kate Sloman and Sofia Ann Walker.

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