The Crowd: Event fundraises to help neglected children

Their brochure states in bold letters, "Bring Hope." Nearly 500 guests of Childhelp did just that last week in Orange County. The annual gathering, billed as "Christmas Through The Eyes Of A Child," unfolded at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Irvine. It raised a net $160,000 for the charity, which operates a home for abused and neglected children in Beaumont, in addition to numerous local facilities.

"Funds are in short supply this year; every dollar is crucial," devoted Childhelp National board member Patti Edwards said in an address to the crowd. "We so appreciate everything all of you here today have donated. Could I ask you each to consider making an additional donation of $20? We could raise another $9,000."

The ladies and gentlemen reached into their wallets to help make the difference. One woman, a new Childhelp member, decided to make a discernable difference. She donated $10,000 instead of a 20-dollar bill.

Co-chaired by Joy Whitlock-Estrada and Gina Van Ocker, the annual Christmastime event brings together a large contingent of community support who believe in the spirit of giving and sharing their good fortune with less-fortunate children.

The day-long event begins with holiday boutique shopping in the Hyatt lobby followed by a massive silent auction — mostly comprised of handmade Christmas décor and seasonal treats. Then the luncheon is served, which is peppered with inspiration delivered by Childhelp members and guests — including Orange County chapter president Pam Pharris, and dedicated volunteer and opportunity prize coordinator Diana Miner.

Childhelp Village Chaplain George Horton shared a personal anecdote about his car breaking down in Victorville and the repair shop owner having a daughter who had lived for a time at the Beaumont Village. The young girl was back at home with her dad and happened to be in the back room of the shop when Horton arrived. An emotional reunion followed, with the father thanking the chaplain for saving the life of his child.

As luncheon was served, Horton introduced The Village Choir, a small segment of a much larger musical ensemble that is part of the Childhelp experience. Some 14 youngsters in their matching plum-colored robes with white collars performed two songs for the audience .

Pam Pharris joined Debra Violette and Cleo Bluth following the choral performance, which had ladies wiping tears from their cheeks and honoring a team of hair stylists from Images Salon in Corona del Mar for its continued and unselfish donation of resources raising funds for Childhelp. Among others called to the stage were Images owners Ron Perez, Al Perez, Michelle Perez and Mark McArdel. This year, Images raised $16,100 for its "cut-a-thon," bringing the total contribution to more than $100,000.

Major donors were Jacquie and Michael Casey, Kim Bengard, Kathy and John Slavik, Zee Allred and Patti and Jim Edwards. Committee members deserving recognition include Tobi Burton, Nancy Cardin, Joyce Simon, Katy O'Malley, Rhonda Gibb, Jennifer Kite, Courtney Froelike and Kristen James — to name only a small number.

Spotted in the crowd were Pamela Selber, Mara Cole, Kathy Heck, Cerise Casello, Marybell Avila, Pamela Dunzer and Heydie Frazee. Also front and center were Robin Hardt, Ann Lund, Bea Edwards, Cynthia Nolet, Liz Phelan, Rosalie Puleo, Heidi Shurtleff, Janet Terrell and Shana Yowell.

On this Thanksgiving Day, it is appropriate to share this story about helping abused children whose family life has been ripped apart by unimaginable circumstances. As you gather at your table with loving family and friends, say a prayer for the forgotten, the poor and all the people not only in America, but all over the planet, who are unable to sit at the table with you tonight. On this all-American holiday let us try to remember that we are a nation of significant differences, yet for more than two centuries have managed to remain united in common purpose with common values meant to benefit one and all.

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

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