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The Crowd: Cherry blossoms represent rebirth of spring, Japan

Editor’s note: This corrects the day Leeza Gibbons will be in Orange County.

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County in association with Soka University hosted a Cherry Blossom Celebration at South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court.

The traditional Japanese custom of hanami or flower viewing is held for a few very brief weeks when the petals of the cherry blossoms (sakura) explode on the trees and then gently float to the ground.

This season the event carried very special meaning in light of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Not only did the coming of he blossoms represent the rebirth of spring, but also of an entire nation, as well as the world, coming together to face the enormous challenge.

South Coast Plaza’s Debra Gunn Downing shared with the cocktail crowd that the massive retail center is partnering with the Japan America Society of Southern California collecting donations for the 2011 Japan Relief Fund during the entire month of April.

In the crowd sharing conversation and compassion for the victims of the tragic natural disaster in Japan were Soka University’s Linda Kennedy, Suzan Paek, Michael Cho, Bonnie Lee, Loretta Zimmerman, Carol and Gary Crane, South Coast Plaza’s executive Werner Escher and Eric Finley of Oscar de la Renta, who graces Riviera magazine’s cover this month focusing on men’s fashion.


Television and radio personality Leeza Gibbons will be in the O.C. on May 10 fronting the eighth annual Orange County United Way’s Women’s Philanthropy Fund Breakfast at the Hilton Hotel, Costa Mesa.

Gibbons founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in 2003 establishing “Leeza’s Place” as a gathering center for support services assisting family caregivers of relatives suffering from chronic illnesses. Today there are eight such facilities around the U.S.

Tickets to the event are $175. Visit, for more information.


Another of the most important breakfast events on the O.C. calendar unfolds April 27, also at the Hilton, Costa Mesa. The Circle 1000 cancer caucus will welcome Kelly Corrigan, journalist and author of “The Middle Place,” discussing her personal triumph over cancer.

Circle 1000 is associated with the Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian Cancer Center and has, over more than two decades, featured America’s most prominent cancer patients, doctors, and survivors spreading hope and raising significant sums for both research and treatment.

Chaired by Pam Schmider working with underwriting chairwoman Margaret Larkin, Circle 1000 community members include Vicki Booth, Arden Flamson, Karen Linden, Ginny Ueberroth, Lin Auer and Mary Buckingham. Contact Andrea Burgess at (949) 764-6939 or go to for information.


If you wish to enter a “Garden Paradise”, consider supporting Alzheimer’s Family Services Center on May 3 at their 11th annual “A Gathering of Friends.” The Waterfront Hilton Resort in Huntington Beach will host the Friday night party that will welcome special guest Mary Lou Shattuck of Newport Beach being honored for her extraordinary commitment to Alzheimer’s care, treatment and research.

Shattuck will be named the 2011 “Distinguished Friend.” Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian is matching donations and sponsorship dollars up to a generous $75,000.

Local citizens behind the event include Hoag CFO Richard Afable and his wife, Sally, Tom and Karen Linden, Bruce and Gail McManigal, Larry and Karen Root, Jack and Jan Stephenson and honored guest Mary Lou Shattuck and her husband, Wayne. Tickets to the enchanted garden are priced at $150.

Please contact Marissa Colon at (714) 593-1860 or go to

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.