Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) hosted an end-of-the-year holiday luncheon at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point.
The luncheon, which was produced by Friends of CASA and included a holiday fashion presentation, exceeded all budget expectations, netting more than $302,000 for CASA’s mission of “recruiting, training and supervising community volunteers who mentor and advocate for children in the foster care system,” said CASA spokesman Mathew Wadlinger.
Major sponsors of the event included Newport’s Lugano Diamonds, represented by president Stewart Winston, and the Harry Bronson and Edith Knapp Foundation.
A team of more than 60 members of the Friends of CASA auxiliary joined with luncheon co-chairs Tiffanie Foster and Colleen Masterson to create the afternoon program, which attracted more than 600 guests from all over Orange County. A major part of the success of the day was attributed to competitive bidding on 185 auction packages, which entertained the large crowd during the champagne reception before the luncheon.
Saks Fifth Avenue presented the runway fashion show, featuring its spring collection. Show designers created an “urban inspired” desert backdrop for the chic models to show off designers’ collections that incorporated vibrant colors, bold prints and creative details not seen in the fashion world in recent seasons. Part of the fashion theme was “a return to day time dress-up,” which invigorated the audience.
As the crowd entered the St. Regis dining room, committee members preformed a serious meet-and-greet, welcoming donors and supporters. CASA advocates included Elizabeth Carpino, Stephanie Finn, Debra Klein, Sara Guggenheim Jarrett, Lori Jackson, Sandi Marino and Stacie Capobianco.
Also front and center for CASA were Judy Chang, Kimberly Matties, Marisa Gallegos, Shawni Jackson, Patty Juarez, Janine Wald, Tracy Wiegand and Jaynine Warner. The highlight of the luncheon was an address by Lauren Mueller, a former foster youth and current state coordinator for CASA in Colorado.
Mueller was candid in sharing the story of her struggle to overcome a youth of neglect and abuse. She said, “I know it is hard to imagine that children right here in Orange County are being abused. But I am telling you that these children are here. They are not just locked in basements.
“You see these children when you walk through the grocery store, when you go to the park and when you drop your own children off at school. We are all here so that their voices can be heard.”
The big prize of the day was a donation from Lugano Diamonds of five diamond-encrusted bangles valued at $19,500. The opportunity drawing was won by CASA supporter Amita Singh, who was so moved by Mueller that she donated the exquisite jewelry to CASA’s guest speaker.
The Friends of CASA have dedicated themselves over many years to raising more than $1.75 million to help Orange County’s most vulnerable children. The annual holiday luncheon serves multiple purposes. First, it brings awareness in the community to the CASA program. Second, it is a recruitment tool for the much-needed volunteers. Finally, fundraising is a vital aspect of strengthening the organization.
Founded in 1985 with support from the Junior League of Orange County, CASA serves some 1,000 children yearly who move through the court system as a direct result of abuse and neglect. To learn more, visit www.casaoc.org.
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.