The Valley Line: Hillsides fundraiser glitters for children in need

Our little piece of the world warmed up this past weekend. After a couple of weeks of very chilly weather, rain storms and a dusting of snow, the sun came out. Weather seemed to be the main topic when I met people in my usual weekend course of running errands and attending social events. Everyone seemed to be so thrilled to feel the warmth of the sun — me too, by the way.


The glitter and sparkle of diamonds seemed to be everywhere recently when Hillsides, a Pasadena-based residential treatment facility and charity serving vulnerable children and families held its annual fund-raising gala at a private downtown club known for its elegant traditional décor and fine food.

The black-tie event was chaired by La Cañada Flintridge resident Donna Ford, who also serves on the Hillsides board. It was a dazzling evening, and $370,000 was raised.

When Ford was asked to serve as the charity’s benefit chair, she said the thought of choosing a theme seemed daunting. “However, when I thought of the children who are served by Hillsides, diamonds immediately came to mind.

“Diamonds are the strongest, most beautiful and sought after stones in the world. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors, representing not only the diversity of the population Hillsides serves but, also, the range of services provided by the charity. Like the process of unveiling the brilliant diamond and its appreciated value, the uncut and unpolished gem has to be handled by specialists who are able to reveal the true jewel that lies beneath,” said Ford.

The event was a showcase for many unique and exceptional silent and live auction items that the formally dressed guests were eager to bid on.

As guests made the rounds of the silent auction tables, they sipped the evening’s signature drink, Kir Royale. They also sampled hors d’ouvres of smoked salmon with diamond shaped tidbits of caviar and crème fraiche, roasted red bell pepper bisque in crystal shot glasses and chicken gyoza with a tangy orange sauce.

When guests were seated in the wood-paneled dining room, with its beautiful crystal chandeliers, the live auction items were projected on large screens.

After the very successful auction, emceed by KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman, dinner was served. The dinner delights included a salad of sliced avocado with fresh pink grapefruit slices on a bed of lettuce with vinaigrette dressing. The main entrée was peppercorn-crusted prime filet mignon in a vintage port sauce accompanied by butter-roasted Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus. Dessert was a rich Valrhona dark chocolate marquise.

Joseph Costa, Hillsides’ chief executive, said, “We are so appreciative to our donors, who consistently support the work we do to help restore hope to the children and families. The demand for our services at Hillsides is great, so I am encouraged by everyone’s support of our event and their desire to help bring some brilliance into the lives of those we serve.”

A brand-new event that enhanced the excitement of the evening was a “Diamond Draw.” Some 70 tickets were sold for the opportunity to win a one-carat diamond donated by Timeless Gems.

Later on in the evening, the dance floor was the place to be as dancers showed off their best dance moves.

Major sponsors for the benefit included The California Endowment, Bill and Susan Noce, Rusnak Automotive Group, Marge and Sherm Telleen, a gift in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Jack G. Booth, Don and Sally Clark, Drake General Contractors, Linda and Stephen Gill, Jacob and Clara Maarse-Jacob Maarse Florists, Judy and Ben Reiling, Swanton Family Foundation, The Walt Disney Company and Western Asset Management, to name a few.

In her closing comments, Ford said, “I see the enthusiasm and passion of the staff for the mission of Hillsides and recognize how special a place Hillsides is and how fortunate we are to have such a formidable resource in our community.”

The monies raised that evening support the many Hillsides programs for its residential treatment, family-centered services and community-based outreach, special education students and transition-aged youth.

Some of the foothill area guests — all looking sophisticated in their elegant gowns and the men very James Bond-like in their tuxedos — were Eveline Siracuse, Liz and Andrew Arizmendi with son Andrew, Mary Dee Harker and Steve Nishibayashi, Courtney Saavedra, Karen Sherwood and Mark Borchert, Dee Fisher and Mark Martinez, Donna and Henri Ford, Karen Tanji Huang, John and Joan McCarthy, Cynthia and Paul Roye, and Michelle Park and Mark Urata.

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