The Crowd: Women for Children first at luncheon

It is a commonly held precept that "all men are created equal." Unfortunately, some are then born more equal than others. For one young woman named Osiris Avalos, her life began in her drug-addicted mother's womb with an abusive father attempting to beat her mother into miscarriage. As horrific as this sounds, it is an all-too-common reality that deserves reporting. The depths of depraved human behavior never cease to shock.

It gets worse. Avalos survived and spent her early childhood shuttled between her suffering mother and grandmother. Eventually, her mother was jailed, given her problems with drugs, and her grandmother was unable to care for her on her own. She was taken in by her third-grade teacher Joy Greenwood and her husband Jim and later was aided by the programs offered by the Orangewood Children's Foundation.

Avalos' story touched the hearts of some 300 Orange County citizens who came together June 6 in Costa Mesa at the Westin South Coast Plaza for the ninth annual 44 Women for Children luncheon. The organization is an auxiliary of support for the Orangewood Children's Foundation with the primary purpose of raising funds and providing scholarship assistance for emancipated foster youth wishing to pursue educational goals without the financial support of family.

Co-chaired by Andrea Casaw, Erika Clemons and Jaynine Warner, the event attracted a very strong contingent of passionate support from local citizens, including Susan Samueli of Corona del Mar, founder of the organization, Ann Kilgore Diem, Kathryn Cenci, Jill Bolton, Wendy Arciero and Tracie Jones, both from the Anaheim Ducks, and Orangewood foundation advocates Cal Winslow (the foundation's CEO), Lupe Erwin, Reid McCartney and Pat Poss.

The community has rallied around the 44 Women concept, and sponsorship has been an essential element of success. The luncheon sponsors of 2013 include jeweler Black, Starr & Frost, the Samueli Foundation and the Warner family. Also lending significant support were Erika and Gordon Clemons, Kathryn Grant, the Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center, Michelle and Bill Schmit, Service Champions Heating & Air Conditioning and Wells Fargo, to name only a few.

Special guest of honor at the event was Olympic swimmer Janet Evans, who served as keynote speaker. Evans took the Westin stage following a video of her Olympic highlights. With a total of seven world records, four gold medals and one silver, Evans is considered the greatest female distance swimmer in history. She charmed the crowd with her humble demeanor stating, "I'm just like everyone — I just happen to swim faster than you." The theme of her address centered on the difference between "winners" and "champions." Evans said, "Winners win races, but champions support others, ignore criticism, have balance in their lives and learn how to lose." Perhaps most importantly Evans told her audience that champions inspire others — champions like Avalos.

In the crowd supporting the cause were Karen and Jon Jaffe, Jeanne Boyce, Kelly Bozza, Karen Goldhirsh, Christine Green Bova, Sandi Jackson, Barb Macabe, Pam Selber, Cecily Burke, Carey Clawson, Linda Thauer and Denise Hayes.

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

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