The Valley Line: A fun and profitable night for Five Acres

Bob and Gregg Smith graciously accepted the accolades given to them when they were honored for their generosity and support of Five Acres and their efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. Five Acres serves more than 4,500 children and their family members every year.

The benefit, held June 11 at the San Gabriel Country Club, raised nearly $150,000 for the 123-year-old Altadena-based agency.

Lorraine Reaume and Cathy Weber were the chairs of the fun and lively party, which was themed, “Eastside Boardwalk.”

The invitation read, “Slip back in time to Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition, where you can sip on bubbly and enjoy an open bar, carnival games, a premium silent auction and an exclusive wine wall presented by redwhite+bluezz.”

Many of the guests got into the ambience of the evening by wearing garb from the 1920s. Some of the ladies wore beaded “flapper” dresses with pearls cascading to their hemlines. Others added pretty feathered cloche hats to complete their ensembles. Fedora hats were popular with the men, as were spats.

As guests entered the garden party, they were served champagne cocktails. Boardwalk carnival games saw a lot of action, especially the “Strong Man High Striker” game, as players tried to ring the bell to show how strong they were. Not only the men tested their strength, but the ladies, too. Another popular attraction was a horse-race game.

As people chatted and sipped their cocktails, they nibbled on hors d'oeuvres as well as carnival favorites such as kettle corn, parmesan popcorn and cotton candy.

I had a nice chat with La Cañadans Carole Swemline and Dr. Ricki Robinson. Carole, a past La Cañada Junior Women’s Club president, talked about how the club has chosen Five Acres to receive philanthropy money.

Ricki, who has cared for La Canada’s youngsters for years as a pediatrician as co-director of Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning and who is a professor at USC School of Medicine, was telling me about her newly published book, “Autism Solutions – How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child.”

When the dinner gong sounded, guests were seated at beautifully decorated tables that were set up on the first green of the historic country club.

Lorraine and Kathy welcomed the 220 guests, as well as board chair Tom Haralambos and Bob Ketch, executive director and CEO, respectively, of Five Acres.

Haralambos toasted the Smith brothers as he said, “Gregg and Bob, your level of philanthropy and genuine love of community is testament to your 30-plus years as business leaders in the industry. As for support, there is never a waver or a missed beat with you, as you always said that you would love to get involved with Five Acres and how could they help. You both are truly ‘the house of yes,’ and for that, we are grateful. Thank you for your years of giving and support to Five Acres.”

Bob and Gregg began their restaurant business here in La Cañada Flintridge when they opened Reflections, where Dish is today. Now they are the owners of Parkway Grill, the Arroyo Chop House, Smitty’s Grill, Crocodile Café, Vibrato Grill Jazz, Café 140 and Cheval Blanc Bistro.

Their dynamic philanthropic spirit is an inspiration to all as they continue to give back to the communities in which they have established their restaurants.

They, in turn, honored four dynamic young women: Regina, Courtney, Summer and Cynthia, who are in Five Acres’ transitional-age youth program. They introduced themselves and told of their career goals before thanking the evening’s major sponsors.

Surprise entertainment came when dancers from the Rose City Ballroom Dance Studio made the dance floor sizzle as they demonstrated dances such as the tango and the cha-cha.

Dinner not only was beautifully prepared and served, but delicious. The entrée was peppercorn-crusted filet mignon with foie gras with a cherry demi glaze. This was paired with lobster medallions with lobster veloute served with rainbow cauliflower, asparagus and mushroom risotto cakes.

Complementing the superb meal were wines — De Loach Vineyards Chardonnay 2009, Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet 2007 and Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc 2009.

The live auction was emceed by Groundlings alumnus John Cervenka. The hotly contested items up for bid were a two-day Porsche Sport Driving School, two first-class American Airlines tickets and a week’s vacation at a condo in Oahu.

These and other silent-auction items, along with a call for donations for specific Five Acres program needs, generated more than $75,000 of the evening’s revenue.

After dining and the auction, guests danced to the music of the Cat’s Pajamas Speakeasy Band.

It was a lovely evening and a very successful one that will ensure the ongoing Five Acres programs for abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families.

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