Our Laguna: Showing support for leukemia sufferer

The applause began as Darrin Reed made his way slowly across the Festival Shopping Center parking lot. By the time he reached ReMark's, everyone in the restaurant was on his or her feet and clapping.

Reed's friends had gathered at the restaurant to show their support for him as he battles his way back to health and to help him pay for the harrowing fight against leukemia. The fundraiser was sold out within a week after it was announced. Almost $12,000, including donations from supporters who could not attend, was raised.

"I am so humbled by this outpouring of love and goodwill," Reed said. "Being in this position of receiving is a bit foreign to me. I am normally the one that is organizing such events or fundraising."

He specifically thanked Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson, former Laguna Beach Unified School District Supt. Theresa Daem, Laguna Beach High School Principal Joanne Culverhouse and Debbie English for organizing the fundraiser and Roxanna Ward and Bree Burgess Rosen for the entertainment.

It was most touching when Rosen sang Reed's favorite song, "Someone to Watch Over Me," as he walked in the door of ReMark's. It was the first time Rosen has sung publicly since she was operated on for cancer.

"This is the longest I have ever gone without singing," Rosen said.

The two are friends from parody specialist "Lagunatics," founded by Rosen.

"She sounds good," said Chris Quilter, Rosen's cohort.

The city, the school board and the district were also well represented.

"This is like old home week for the school district and its all for a wonderful cause," said board member Betsy Jenkins.

Reed has worked for the district since 1999. He hopes to be cleared to return in April.

School board members William Landsiedel, Jan Vickers and Theresa O'Hare and former board member Susie Mas and Councilman Robert Whalen were there to support Reed. As well as Supt. Sherine Smith made a brief appearance.

Among the current and former district employees at the fundraiser: Dean West, assistant superintendent for business; special education director Debra Ann Nickel; her administrative assistant, Debra Nash; teacher Irene West; Top of the World teacher Mary Minerman; and Patty Beaver, who to the staff is "Ma" to Reed's "Pa."

Victor Guthrie, who recently resigned as technical director for the district; Steven Keller, former assistant superintendent; and Patricia Twitty, recently retired Thurston Middle School science teacher were on the guest list.

PTA council members Susan Brown, Peggy Wolff and Tammy Skenderian made the cut-off — attendance was limited by the restaurant's capacity. SchoolPower's Peggy Pietig also represented her husband, City Manager John Pietig, who was tied up preparing for a special council meeting the next morning.

City officials included Mayor Kelly Boyd, council members Elizabeth Pearson and Toni Iseman, Planning Commissioner Ken Saddler, Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn. President Larry Bammer, and retired City Treasurer Martha Anderson.

Nine months had passed since Reed had last seen many of the folks at the event. Since then he has undergone chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a bone marrow transplant.

"[The donor] is a 30-year-old woman and with a little sleuthing, we figured that she is German," said Reed. "I've named her Inga. We share my body.

"I owe her a ton of thanks," he said.

He also thanked his partner of 23 years, Ray Kawecki.

"Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling ... , I can now legally call him my husband," said Reed.

The two were married in 2004 in San Francisco, but the marriage was invalidated. They married again in 2008, a marriage now declared legal.

"I would not be here if not for him," Reed said.

It was touch and go for a while, but Kawecki was always there for him. He slept every night at the hospital.

"When anyone in a couple gets cancer, they both get it," said Johnson, a cancer survivor.

The fundraiser marked the 63rd post-transplant day. Reed said no major complications have arisen.

On Day 100, he will undergo his ninth bone marrow biopsy. As of now, he is cancer-free and looking forward to the time he can eat in restaurants.

He might want to sample the menu served at the fundraiser: New Zealand lamb chops, bruschetta and fried green tomatoes for starters, followed by a salad of greens and poached pears, a choice of filet mignon, salmon or a tower of vegetables for an entrée and ending with "Death by Chocolate" bombs and flourless cake.

Among those who enjoyed the scrumptious dinner: Jessica and Bobby Adams, Kawecki's daughter and son-in-law; Chamber of Commerce President Michael Kinsman and his wife, former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman; businessmen Mark Christy, Steve Dotoratosand Dave Sanford; former district parents Kathleen and Dr. Jim Selevan; and Charlie and Ann Quilter, members of the Methodist Church, at which Reed is active.

"It was heartwarming to me to see the turnout of people in support of Darrin," said Culverhouse, who served as mistress of ceremonies. "Darrin's role has always been to support the members of the district and the community, and I felt it was poignant that people came out to support him and Ray."


Mayor Boyd learned this week that his cancer is in remission.

"I really want to thank everyone for the concern, sympathy and support given me since I was diagnosed in January," Boyd said.

He and his wife, Michelle, will celebrate by taking a delayed trip to Ireland and England, where his sister lives.

"I don't even have to go to the doctor until October," Boyd said Monday. "But I will be on a maintenance program: either a low dose chemo pill every day or a stem cell transplant.

"Remission is not a cure. The doctor said inevitably it will creep back, but then we'll jump on it," said Boyd.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call 1 (714) 966-4608 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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