The Valley Line: Late spring is a great time for benefit parties

Just in case you haven't been ticking off the days on the calendar, it is still spring. Perhaps that is why we have been experiencing “June gloom” off and on.

The summer solstice is on June 21. Just in case you are looking for something exciting to do and want to get out of town, there is a Solstice Day parade in Santa Barbara on Saturday, June 23.

I have been to this event several times and I've always enjoyed this colorful and fun parade of costumed people and even more multi-hued, quirky floats. It is a lively Santa Barbara original. I enjoy fantasy and always like to get into the spirit of things, so I've always worn a circle of flowers in my hair when attending the parade. It just seemed the right thing to do.

This is a good time to catch up on late-spring benefit parties, so here goes.

More than 600 USC Trojan ladies and gentlemen, dressed in luncheon finery, turned out to raise funds for University of Southern California scholars at the Town and Gown of USC annual luncheon and fashion show.

La Cañadans Carol Mollett, Kandi Wopschall and Bernice Christensen were on the fundraising committee. Carol is the incoming president of this prestigious organization that was founded 108 years ago.

This year Town and Gown will offer more than 175 merit-based tuition scholarships — totaling close to $1.3 million — to deserving incoming freshmen and current undergraduate and graduate students.

Guests first gathered in the grand foyer of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to check in and to peruse silent-auction tables and boutiques. They were then led to the stairway by the USC “Spirit of Troy” marching band, conducted by Dr. Arthur C. Bartner.

These fine musicians were quite impressive as they stood on the mirrored stairs of the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall to urge Trojans to remember exactly why they were here — to raise funds for scholars.

As everyone was seated, Judy Pohlmann, current president of Town and Gown, stepped to the podium to introduce USC president C.L. “Max” Nikias, who in turn lauded Town and Gown for their work in raising funds for scholars. He also was very proud to introduce his wife, Niki — the “first lady” of USC.

Janeane Dimpel and Kay Maselter, co-chairs of the event, then introduced the two honorees. One was legendary singer and actress Debbie Reynolds, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to show business. She entertained us with stories of many of her film and stage adventures.

Honoree and baritone Rod Gilfry, a USC graduate who has sung opera in all the great opera houses of the world, mesmerized guests by singing “Some Enchanted Evening,” from the musical, “South Pacific.” Gilfry, who played the role of Emile de Becque in “South Pacific” at the Ahmanson, is also an assistant professor of Vocal Arts at the Thornton School of Music. A scholarship was named in his honor.

After the honors were presented, Robert Ellis, a USC grad and fashion designer, presented a fashion show of his collection of beautiful clothes, ranging from casual to spectacular.

Moving from the elegance of a downtown Los Angeles venue, the next fundraiser to tell you about was the Los Altos Auxiliary of Hathaway-Sycamores wine-tasting party.

This annual fundraising event was held at the lovely Tudor-style La Cañada Flintridge home of Wendy and Phil Wyatt.

Kelly Springer and Debbie Chacon were co-chairs. They scurried around making certain all the details were in place. They were, of course, and there were kudos all around for their outstanding efforts.

Nearly 200 supporters of Hathaway-Sycamores, who want to make the lives of kids who live in the El Nido campus in Altadena much brighter, were there to enjoy the warm day, sip fine wines, and taste delicious food. Hathaway-Sycamores is Los Angeles County's largest provider of children's mental-health services.

Showcased at the tasting, which was titled “Wines of the Central Coast: a Tasting Experience,” was a selection of highly rated California wines from the Paso Robles region. The event also featured a silent auction of bountiful wine-themed baskets and California cuisine created and prepared by Los Altos members.

Bill Martone, president and chief executive of Hathaway-Sycamores, expressed his appreciation for the generosity of the guests.

A 14-year-old boy named Gabriel, who currently calls Hathaway-Sycamores' El Nido campus home, was eloquent as he gave a heart-felt thank you to the women of Los Altos Auxiliary for all they do throughout the year to benefit the boys in residential care. He said that all of the youth at El Nido are looking forward to the fall carnival that the Los Altos ladies hold each year.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Let her know about your special events at

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