The Valley Line: VHH event opens the holiday season

It was a first and it was a “wow” event! It was the inaugural Verdugo Hills Hospital Women’s Council Poinsettia Ball held Saturday in the opulent Crystal Ballroom of the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

Although the final figures aren’t in yet, according to Yulanda Davis-Quarrie, president of the Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation, more than $100,000 was raised for the hospital that evening.

It was an especially festive evening, a black-tie event that opened up the holiday season. The guests first gathered in the ballroom’s adjoining Emerald Room for cocktails. They admired the 16 beautifully decorated Christmas trees and listened to music played by pianist Devi Ganapaphi and violinist Sarah Worden, students from the Crescenta Valley High School music program.

Greeting guests were Sue Wilder, president of the Women’s Council, Suzonne Slaughter, chair of the event, and Len LaBella, president of the hospital.

Women’s Council committee members assisting Slaughter included Randy Alejo-Medina, Virginia Clegg, Jill Ann Haines, Marie Hansen, Sharon Harker, Pauline Hendricks, Betty Hurn, Kate Kaneko, Loretta Levy, Ruth McNevin, Teri Rice, Chris Rothrock and Alexandra Smyser.

The 16 trees, which were up for auction and also as raffle opportunities, were varied and clever. There was a wide range of themes for the trees. There were sports-related trees, a tree featuring a USC motif, a golf motif and a gourmet theme. Trees were also trimmed with a Disney theme and there was also a delicious looking chocolate-themed tree.

A very popular tree up for auction was a nine-foot American Doll tree decorated with everything for the dolls. Sitting under the tree were American Girl dolls, with accouterments such as clothes and accessories.

Especially wishing for that tree were Ashley and Devon Spence, whose father Darrell is president of the board of directors of the foundation. Ashley and Devon were dressed in their party best as they attended this very grown-up party.

Suzonne Slaughter said that special kudos go to Eileen Akers, who coordinated the gathering of donors and decorators of the trees.

Party guests also had an opportunity to participate in a live auction consisting of four luxurious vacation packages, including a Jamaican dream vacation.

Many of the party-goers were physicians who work at the hospital. Later on in the evening, Dr. Leo Berkenbile, who is an emergency room physician and chief of staff at the hospital, was presented with a commendation from Assemblyman Anthony Portantino for the hospital.

Berkenbile said upon receipt of the commendation, “It has been an honor to have served as chief of staff at Verdugo Hills Hospital and work with such an exceptional medical staff. I hope that with the continued support of our community, and especially the Women’s Council, Verdugo Hills Hospital will continue to provide superlative care for our community.”

It was an outstanding inaugural event and one that folks will be looking forward to next year just as the jingle-bells start to ring.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. She can be reached at

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