The Crowd: Helping find homes for foster children

"I attended a recent gathering of foster children who have reached the emancipation age of 18," said Eric Hasemeyer, attending Monday's "For the Love of a Child" fashion show and luncheon benefiting Childhelp.

"The event brought together 300 18-year-olds leaving foster care and setting out to make lives for themselves," he added. "Do you know what the statistics are for 300 foster kids reaching the age of emancipation? Out of the 300, within only a few years, 273 of them will either be homeless, incarcerated, and/or addicted to some form of alcohol or drugs."

Eric joined his wife Jaci as the honored guests of the Childhelp event receiving the annual Children's Friend Award. The couple accepted the honor with grace but not holding back the truth concerning the real problems faced by foster children in California and elsewhere.

The Hasemeyer's have raised their own children at their home in Riverside, in addition to fostering more than 30 additional children coming to them from difficult circumstances. Out of the 30 children, they have adopted 10. In addition, they have worked nonstop to find qualified parents to bring into the foster care system.

Later in the afternoon, in a private moment, Jaci said, "Our purpose is faith-based. Despite all the negative aspects of the foster care system, my husband and I believe that it is not the government that has the answers, but instead there are 50,000 churches in California, and presently there are about as many kids that need a foster home. If we could just encourage one family, one decent family, in each of those 50,000 churches to take just one child, the fate of the world would most definitely change for the better."

The powerful and emotional path of the Hasemeyer's was in stark contrast to the jubilant mood of the annual fashion show fundraiser, which took place at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, and was chaired by Diana Miner and Mary Allyn Dexter. With the dedicated help of Childhelp volunteers in Orange County led by Childhelp National Board member Patti Edwards, and Orange County President Pam Pharris, the event sold out with more than 400 guests attending. It raised an impressive $180,000.

A major part of the success is due to the participation of South Coast Plaza, represented at the event by executives Debra Gunn Downing and Kathryn Glassmyer.

Glassmyer worked closely with the Childhelp board to create an exquisite runway show featuring designer fashions for both women and men from participants including Bally, Brooks Brothers, Calypso St. Barth, David Yurman, DKNY, Façonnable, Intermix, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. John, Versace, Wolford, and Stuart Weitzman.

The music pulsated as models paraded the catwalk on a double runway showing off the latest spring designs, all of which were stunningly wearable. Sitting in the front row was Marie St. John Gray, founder and design force behind the legendary label. Gray shared the front row with Beverly Cohn, a most generous Newport Beach hostess and board member of California Childhelp.

Special guest of the event was actress Connie Stevens, who was introduced to the crowd by co-founder of Childhelp Yvonne Fedderson, who flew in from Arizona to front the event. Fedderson lauded Stevens for her more than 50 years of support for the organization, which was founded in the 1950s when both Stevens and Fedderson were young actresses starting their careers.

Also spotted along the fashionable runways were Cleo Bluth, Deborah Bridges, Nancy Burnett, Leslie Cancellieri, Jacquie Casey, Patricia Cranford, Jean DeVries, Bee Edwards, Barbara Eidson, Wendy Enkema, Pat Hancock, Lee Healy, Lori Hirth, Karen Littlefair, Suki McCardle, Bonnie McClellan, Barbara Rapollo, Monica Ruggieri, Pamela Selber and Linda Colton.

Following the fashion show, the crowd walked the walk while talking the talk, through the beautiful Island Hotel property heading to the adjacent canvas roofed Palm Garden. Decorators created a spring garden masterpiece using floral centerpieces of gently varied spring blossoms in muted tones of lavender, cream, pink and yellow.

The Island served a delicious luncheon in three courses as the ladies and selected gents table-hopped, enjoying the day but clearly focused on the children's cause at hand. Supporting Childhelp and enjoying the luncheon were Gary and Dale San Fillippo, Eileen Saul, Cerise Casselo, Pamela Schmider, Jennifer Segerstrom, Zee Allred, Janet Terrell, Gina Van Ocker, Valaree Wahler and Carol Packard.

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.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World