The Valley Line: Cash and crystal mark Hillsides gala

Our clocks sprang forward Sunday and in honor of that happening, we have been basking in spring-like weather for the past few days. I hope you are enjoying this preview of the season.

It was a banner fundraising event for Hillsides in Pasadena. An astounding $655,000 was raised in order to improve the overall well-being and functioning of vulnerable children, youth and their families in the Los Angeles area. The Centennial Gala was held at The Langham Huntington Hotel and attended by more than 600 guests dressed in formal attire.

It was expertly chaired by Liz Arizmendi, who said the plans for the evening were two years in the making.

When guests entered the hotel's ballroom they found a scene like a winter wonderland in shades of white, silver and soft blue lights. Floral designers from Jacob Maarse created the breathtaking floral centerpieces of white hydrangea, roses and white lilies.

Karen Tanji, a La Cañada Flintridge resident and chairman of the Hillsides board of directors said, “Over the course of 100 years, Hillsides has been privileged to play a part in creating significant, positive and lasting change to the lives of 110,000 people who have been helped by Hillsides teachers and care-givers.”

Receiving Tiffany-designed-and-donated hand-cut crystal awards were special awardees Emmy award-winning actress Jean Smart, comedian George Lopez, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Marcus Allen, Paul Rusnak, chairman and chief executive of Rusnak Auto Group, and Fritz Coleman, Channel 4 weather person.

“I can't thank our supporters enough for making the gala an incredible success,” said Joe Costa, chief executive of Hillsides. “The funds raised will allow Hillsides to continue to create lasting change in the lives of at-risk children, youth, and families. This overwhelming outpouring of generosity is the best birthday present Hillsides could ever receive.”

The evening was action-packed, with a silent auction and later a live auction filled with unique and exceptional opportunities and items hosted by award-winning comedian and actor Christopher Rich.

The live auction got fast and furious when a bidding war broke out among guests for a signed Elton John-band guitar, with band members Davey Johnstone and John Mahon cheering the guests on.

Guests also rushed to outbid each other for a Danube Viking River Cruise and a weekend away at The Langham with the use of a Maserati or Bentley from Rusnak Maserati Pasadena and Bentley Pasadena.

Throughout the evening, attendees were treated to an incredible line-up of talented entertainers, including Nina Fetter & The Feds jazz quartet; “Dancing with the Stars” choreographer Christian Perry and his wife, Annette; violinist Lindsey Stirling; and three-time world champion of magic Jason Latimer, who wowed the audience with his awe-inspiring sleights of hand.

Other performers were Jacky Ibarra, who sang the national anthem, DJ Herick and DJ Lezlee, and recording artists CEEJ and Suzan Brittan Gault. Talented local students included The Polytechnic School dancers, who performed as ballerinas and with the Mayfield Senior Dance Conservatory, created a flash mob.

Guests were treated to an imaginative feast created by Langham Executive Chef Denis Depoitre and his staff. The evening ended with the unveiling of Hillsides' new logo, a colorful pinwheel representing childhood innocence and the power to turn obstacles into opportunities.


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

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