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CHOC CHILDREN'S GALA, "BUILDING BIGGER DREAMS," LAUDS NEW PATIENT CARE TOWER

January 30, 2012

Published: Jan. 30, 2012

PEOPLE Watch
BY DONNA BUNCE - THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

I've attended a lot of fundraisers, but I've never seen what happened at the CHOC Cherishes Children Gala on January 21st at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. The auctioneer Steve Hamann opened the live auction by introducing LaDonna Whipple, a valet attendant at the hotel. The item offered the highest bidder the opportunity of having his or her car ready and waiting when departing, thanks to Whipple. The bidding was fierce and actually ended at $15,000, with David Pyle of Newport Beach the winner. "I did it for two reasons," Pyle said, "for LaDonna, because I've watched her park cars here for 20 years, and because it's a great cause."

A gold '60s retro bar serving classic cocktails, such as Tom Collins, vodka gimlets and whiskey sours, greeted the nearly 300 guests in the reception area of the ballroom, and the stunning ballroom décor reflected the colors used for CHOC's soon-to-be opened patient care tower. Looking quite pleased with their accomplishments were gala co-chairs Marsha and Dave Willis, underwriting chair Christine Bren, décor chair Heather Madden and committee members Kristina Dodge, Kathryn Glassmyer Cenci and Monica Furman. Speaking for her and her husband, Marsha Willis said of their 30-year involvement, "We have seen daily miracles with patients at CHOC, and we love the passion CHOC invokes in people, so it's a privilege and honor to raise money for this endeavor."

CHOC Children's Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Sam Auriemma welcomed everyone and introduced the CHOC physicians and executive management present, the gala chairs and committee, as well as CHOC President and CEO Kimberly Cripe, who proudly stated that CHOC Children's was named one of the best children's hospitals by U.S. News & World Report (2011-2012). "This year's gala theme, 'Building Bigger Dreams,' reflects the tremendous strides we are making in the realization of our vision to become nationally recognized as a premier children's hospital," Cripe said. She said the money raised through the "Change CHOC, Change the World" $125 million fundraising campaign to build a state-of-the-art patient care tower, due to open Spring, 2013, will feature the most advanced design and safety principles of any children's hospital in the nation. "Building upon our academic affiliation with UC Irvine and our increased research capabilities, the new tower will also enhance our ability to attract and retain top pediatric experts from throughout the world," Cripe concluded.

Joining Cripe in presenting Hyundai Motor American CHOC's Children's Champion Award were Dr. Leonard Sender, Medical Director of CHOC's Hyundai Cancer Institute, and 13-year-old Sammy Heim, a CHOC cancer survivor and former Hyundai Hope on Wheels National Youth Ambassador. "We are very lucky to have Hyundai Motor America headquartered here and to have partnered with them to try and change the outcome for kids with cancer throughout the country," Sender said. Having donated $43 million to pediatric cancer in the U.S., Sender said the car company has donated $500,000 to CHOC's Cancer Institute through the Hope on Wheels campaign before making a $10 million donation last year, "the largest corporate gift to CHOC in our history," he said. "Our Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC will be doing groundbreaking work on pediatric cancer tumors right here in Orange County."

Zafar Brooks, Hyundai Director of General Affairs, Government Relations and Diversity Outreach, accepted the award, saying, "We've been pleased to have partnered with CHOC since 2002 and have found CHOC to be on the vanguard of pediatric cancer research. Our mission at Hope on Wheels is very clear. We help kids fight cancer and we look forward to the day that no child has to hear the words, 'You have cancer.' That will truly be the day to celebrate."

Dr. Jason Knight, Co-Director of CHOC's Emergency Transport Services Team and a critical care specialist, introduced 13-year-old Miranda Padilla, and told her story. "On August 25, 2009, we transported Miranda," Knight said, "who awakened with the worst headache of her life and, after being transported to a community hospital, arrived at CHOC, where she underwent emergency brain surgery due to a malformation resulting from a brain bleed." Miranda's father John Padilla commended CHOC, saying, "My family is intact today because of wonderful doctors like Dr. Knight and Dr. (Michael) Muhonen and their teams. It's just amazing what Children's Hospital does. We are so blest."

The live auction saw some active bidding, with the week's vacation at a Martha's Vineyard ocean-front estate going for $17,000 - twice – to Rex McMackin and to Margarita and Tom Solazzo. Heather and Jim Madden won the sports extravaganza package with the Angels, Ducks, Dodgers, and Lakers for $15,000, while Adrienne and Rick Matros had the top bid at $26,000 for the his and hers Corum Diamond Chronograph Bubble Watches. Christine Bren won the New York Fashion Week package for $6,000, and Glenn Cripe snagged four front row seats at Angels Baseball's opening day for $3,200.

The Derek Bordeaux Band brought guests to the dance floor for the gala's finale, and guests departed with an elegant Donna Karan/Lenox porcelain bowl, as well as a mascot CHOCO Bear, which was waiting in the front seat of each guest's car.

The effort netted $450,000 for the cause.

Contact the writer: donna@coastmagazine.com

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