The Crowd: Folks caring about African plight

It was an evening with Charlize Theron at UC Irvine's Center For Living Peace. The Academy Award-winning actress, who also serves as the United Nations Messenger of Peace, came to Orange County to speak to local advocates passionate about world affairs and the condition of humanity on the subject of impoverished children in South Africa, with a focus on the continuing health crisis brought on in that region by HIV and AIDS.

The eloquent Theron was joined by friends Kelly Smith, founder of the Center For Living Peace, and Dr. Michael Bennish, founder and executive director of an organization called Mpilonhle, which works with the Theron Africa Outreach Project directing funds for hands-on work bringing such vital elements as nutritious food, clean water, housing, health care and more to African children in desperate need.

Theron addressed a rapt audience Dec. 4 at the UCI Student Center, with an intimate dinner at the Center For Living Peace following. Gala host Nancy Christiano joined Fradee Rudy, executive director of the center welcoming UCI Chancellor Michael Drake and his wife, Brenda Drake, major donor and O.C. philanthropist Paul Folino, Kathy and Noel Hamilton, Janeen and Lawrence Hirson, Pamela and Tim Kashani, Leslie Millerd Rogers, and Jennifer Van Bergh and Tom Box.

The Center For Living Peace will present its next program Jan. 25 featuring Sir Richard Branson and then on May 4 the Dalai Lama will address Orange County. His subject: compassion and global leadership. For more information go to


In related holiday news, the philanthropic Sandra Daniels and a committee of dedicated volunteers championed "Suits, Reindeer and Ties, Oh My" at South Coast Plaza on behalf of the Festival of Children Foundation on Dec. 7.

The social crowd was invited to ride the iconic carousel specially fitted with reindeer for the Christmas season. Every participant was instructed to bring their cell phone as they mounted the reindeer carousel and were told they could not get off until they called everyone and anyone they knew to raise $4,000 for Orange County children's charities.

The spin brought in an amazing $71,300 for a host of deserving causes. Now that's what I call quite a ride!

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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