The Crowd: An emotional event for cerebral palsy

Julia Argyros last week took the microphone in the grand ballroom of the Balboa Bay Club & Resort.

"My first job following graduation from college was working as a speech therapist helping children with disabilities," she told the crowd, as she stood on stage next to her husband, George Argyros, the former U.S. ambassador to Spain.

"I learned very quickly the struggles faced by those children and their parents," she added. "What I also experienced was progress when the children got the help they needed and in turn I saw a glimmer of hope in the parents. Hope for a better future, a healthier, happier future for their children."

The evening at the Balboa Bay Club, fittingly named "A Glimmer of Hope," was held on behalf of United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County. George and Julia Argyros were honored with the organization's IMPACT award for a "Life Without Limits."

The Argyros family takes philanthropy seriously. They have been at the front of a multiple of major campaigns for decades. Some support comes in the form of name recognition and financial contribution only, while other causes come with plenty of heart and soul.

This was one emotional night. George Argyros had the black-tie dinner crowd silent as he shared a message.

"We are so blessed," he said. "So many people need help. Giving back to the community is both an honor and a duty. Julia and I are grateful that we can do what we do."

This was not a typical charity event meant to expand business connections. The Argyros family included their children and grandchildren, and others in attendance followed suit.

Most significantly, there were many young people and their parents at the dinner facing the struggle with cerebral palsy. Best of all, heartfelt stories of overcoming all odds were shared, both live and on giant video screens. And then, a remarkable live performance by two young ladies fighting CP — Marna Rough and Caitlin Cohn sang selections from the Broadway musical "Wicked."

A standing ovation filled the room with electricity. Caitlin Cohn is the daughter of Richard Cohn, who served as chairman of the event gala committee. He is a partner in the Santa Ana law firm of Aitken, Aitken & Cohn. It was another example of families uniting for the cause, making the event more personal and more emotional.

Adding to the warmth of the evening were John and Anne Huffman sharing anecdotes of a loving friendship with the Argyros family. John Huffman, the respected and retired minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, bared a bit of his soul.

"I've never told anyone this before," he said holding back a tear, "but our late daughter was able to attend Princeton her first semester because of help from George and Julia."

The success of the evening was due in great part to the efforts of chairman Christian Dubia, partner in the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney. Dubia was assisted by Cathy Collins, chief executive of United Cerebral Palsy. Additional major support came from DLD Insurance Brokers, the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation, Fish & Richardson, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP and the Argyros Foundation.

Proceeds raised will top $381,000 thanks in great part to a very lively auction.

Supporting the evening were Chapman University's Jim and Lynne Doti, Carlene and Chuck Haggerty, Karen and Steve Reid, Michele and Roger Denning, Anne and Dave Copley, Donna and Richard Cohn, and Bette and Wylie Aitken.

Also on hand for CP were Scott and Brianna Pievac, Pam Patterson, Kim and Mark Clemens, Grant and Linda Beresford, Sean Cao, and cerebral palsy role model and world adventurer Bonner Paddock and Michael Muhonen, a distinguished physician dedicated to fighting the disease in O.C.

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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