The Crowd: Debutantes have a ball at Hotel Irvine


It’s all about passing the torch from generation to generation. Twenty-five young women were presented to Orange County society at the 54th debutante ball produced by the Newport Chapter of National Charity League Inc. The ceremony took place Nov. 29 over Thanksgiving weekend at the Hotel Irvine.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and close friends came together for the formal ball, which honored the debutantes for six years of community service supporting more than 30 charities in Orange County. Many of the young women assisted causes close to the hearts of their mothers and grandmothers, who, in years past, have served the same organizations. The time committed to volunteerism tops 10,000 hours, with many of the debutantes honored for volunteering more than 100 hours per year.

Most of the 2014 class of National Charity League Inc. debs are honor roll students, Advanced Placement scholars, youth leaders in their schools and recipients of college grants from such organizations as the National Honor Society and California Scholarship Federation. Many of the students have achieved a grade point average of 4.0 or greater and have also excelled in varsity high school athletics and programs in the arts and sciences.

The ball attracted more than 400 guests. As tradition requires, the mothers of the young women were presented and then seated by the escorts of each of their daughters, opening the ceremony. Nikki Wood served as ball director for 2014. She was joined by her husband, David Wood, in welcoming all of the guests as the ceremony commenced.

Opening remarks came from Molly Davin, National Charity League chapter president, sharing with the crowd the proud accomplishments of the organization culminating in this 54th debutante presentation.

Each of the young women, dressed in floor-length white ball gowns accented with formal opera-length white gloves, were presented to society, taking the traditional St. James bow and then parading to the dance floor on the arm of their father and/or significant escort as the orchestra played excerpts from a favorite song.

The entire debutante class then came together once again in the ballroom for a sentimental toast made in their collective honor. Then it was time for the waltz, bringing the party to life.

“This night is truly a celebration for the debutantes and their families,” Nikki Wood said. “These young ladies have volunteered countless hours while getting good grades, playing sports and participating in different leadership groups. We are excited and so very proud to honor them.”

The Hotel Irvine culinary staff served a multi-course dinner. Making the event possible was a hard-working committee supporting Nikki Wood. Recognition goes to assistant deb director Kimberly Prado along with committee members Brook Lawson, Miles Becker, Erin McKenzie, Susan Merrell, Inga Beder, Suzy Robinson, Pam Sargeant, Portia Fischer, Kathy Purdy, Deena Warmington, Jenny Gehl, Bianca Mossman, Tanya LeVecke and Marie Goffman.

Also instrumental were a number of local Newport-Mesa mothers and sisters who were once NCL debs. Among the legacies were Molly Calder (1985), Dana Cipolla (1980), Jennifer Lefebvre (1986), Kylie Mulvaney (2013), Channing O’Neill (2012), Shelby Perez (2013), Chelsea Roth (2012), Suzanne Strutner (2009) and Madeline Strutner (2011).

As the dinner service concluded, the crowd danced the night away to the music of the Jay Sterling Orchestra. The 25 debutantes for 2014 are Sarah Jane Booth, Katherine Ann Calder, Robin Marie Caston, Danielle Janine Cipolla, Karli Mackenzie Dugan, Claire Elizabeth Farmer, Elyse Lorraine Ford, Lauren Elizabeth Hanour, Jacqueline Frances Horwitz, Ashley Elizabeth Kayl, Molly Elizabeth Keasey, Rachel Maxon Kraushaar, Ellen Tracy Labbe, Megan Ayn Lefebvre, Nicole Manser, Kendall Maria Mulvaney, Natalie Noel O’Neill, Amanda Marsha Perez, McKenzie Ann Purcifull, Annie Ryan Reed, Madeleine Therese Roth, Reagan Elizabeth Rutter, Carly Nicole Searcy, Caroline Grace Strutner and Alexandra Maria Ursini.

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.