The Valley Line: Hundreds turn out for Hathaway-Sycamores twilight fundraiser at the L.A. Zoo

What a beautiful way it was to begin an evening after the Los Angeles Zoo was closed to daytime visitors on Oct. 7: Friends of Hathaway Sycamores Child and Family Services gathered there for the organization's annual "Celebrating Children" gala honoring La Cañadans Gayle and Michael Galper for their unwavering support of one of Los Angeles County's largest mental health and welfare agencies. The fundraising party was themed "Twilight at the Zoo."

Nearly 400 people participated in the event that raised $475,000 to help fund the therapeutic and other crucial support services of Hathaway-Sycamores, which provides help for children, young adults and families facing serious life challenges.


The Galpers were honored because their family exemplifies the values of integrity, leadership and commitment to the L.A community, according to Hathaway-Sycamores officials.

"We are so pleased to have had the opportunity to honor two very special people, Gayle and Mike, who through their many years of involvement in Hathaway-Sycamores, have changed the lives of countless young people whose lives have been impacted by violence and trauma," Debra Manners, president and chief of Hathaway-Sycamores, told the evening's guests during her opening remarks.


The Galpers have been supporters of Hathaway-Sycamores for over a decade. Michael ("Mike") served as Hathaway-Sycamores board chair from 2013 to 2015 and is currently chair of the emeritus board. Gayle has been a member of the Los Altos Auxiliary, Hathaway-Sycamores' support group, since 2012.

Mike stepped to the podium to welcome and thank guests for coming to support the cause and credited the organization's commitment to excellence. "It really is a combination of dedication and compassion of the staff, innovation to deliver the latest methods and treatment protocols, a unwavering commitment to inclusivity, making sure that everyone is treated with respect, no matter their race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or social backdrop — a commitment to providing the highest and most appropriate service, even if they are not fully reimbursed," he said.

Following the presentation to the Galpers of the Celebrating Children Award, the original video "Path to Permanency" — featuring the stories of three young adults whose lives have been changed by the services they received at the Hathaway-Sycamores El Nido residential campus — made its debut. The three young men featured in the film, Lardeill McLemore, Cody Hughes and Mark Ruiz, were in attendance that night. It was Hughes' birthday the night of the celebration dinner and the guests stood to sing "Happy Birthday" to him.

El Nido, which is near JPL, is home to some 50 boys from ages 6 to 18. The programs on campus include foster care and adoption services, shelter care and out-of-home care for boys with severe challenges that prevent them from living safely at home.

When guests arrived at twilight time at the zoo, they were served hors d'oeuvres and beverages while they visited with Billy the elephant, harpy eagles, otters and other aquatic species.

The elephant put on quite a show. Most impressively, he trumpeted upon command by his trainers. Wow! What a magnificent sound it was — it could be heard throughout the entire zoo.

After the reception, guests were seated to enjoy a dinner catered by Taste of the Wild.

Some of the La Cañadans attending this lively evening to fete Mike and Gayle Galper were Jeanie and Terry Kay, Cara and John Green, Carrie and Tim Grochow, Nora and Jack MacKenzie, Priscilla and Joe Musso, Sandi Mellin, Julie McCarty, Laurie and Eric Rodli, Patti, Jamie, Katie and Star DeRose; Michelle and Tim Sabourin, Joyce and Ron Carey, Camilla and Jim Hartman, Amy and Mark Bernhard, Jeff and Grace Wang, Peter and Helen Kim, Becky and Jeff Lanky, Mary Beth and Glenn Eckerle, Burt and Sheila Galper, Jenna Galper, Mary Beth and Glenn Eckerle, Kelly and Scott Springer, Karen Sellergren, Bob Navarro, Sandi Mellin and the Greg Frame family.

Among the La Cañadans who turned out at the L.A. Zoo for the Hathaway-Sycamores fundraiser Oct. 7 were, from left, Kara, Jeff, Becky and Erick Lankey.
Among the La Cañadans who turned out at the L.A. Zoo for the Hathaway-Sycamores fundraiser Oct. 7 were, from left, Kara, Jeff, Becky and Erick Lankey. (Courtesy of Keith Berson)

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.