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Amy Finley, Gillian Flynn, Eric Olsen and Shelby Stanger | Photo: Johnakin Randolph, Robert Benson, Michael Splengler/Studio and Getty Images | Portraits by Robert Benson | October 22, 2013
Giving never goes out of style. We shine the spotlight on philanthropists and their causes, enviable invites and so many ways to give back. Let the giving—and the galas—begin!
Cause Celeb: To a Tee
Hats off to Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, who is helping keep alive Junior Seau’s memory by hosting the Celebrity Championship golf tournament (celebritychampionship.com). “I am humbled and proud to support my friend Junior Seau and to do my part in carrying on his incredible legacy,” says Faulk. At the star-studded Celebrity Championship golf tourney, proceeds will fund Faulk’s own foundation, along with Seau’s. An active philanthropist in San Diego, Seau’s eponymous foundation empowers local youth with a variety of anti-juvenile delinquency programs, and the player himself was an inspiring member of the community before taking his life. Held at La Costa, the tourney lures pro athletes from the NFL, NHL and NBA. Save the dates of May 15-18.
Hot Ticket: Wild Things!
In its 31st year, the San Diego Zoo’s R.I.T.Z. gala continues to be a roaring success. Proceeds will benefit the largest expansion in the Zoo’s history, paving the way for the ambitious 8-acre Africa Rocks section, featuring more than five different habitats from Africa to house zoo faves like zebra, baboons, warthogs and ibex. The new territory replaces Dog & Cat Canyon, one of the oldest areas of the nearly 100-year-old zoo. The 2014 gala will be chaired by Lisette and Michael “Mick” Farrell, CEO of ResMed. Save the date for June 21.
Dr. Sean Daneshmand
With more than 1,000 deliveries to his name, Dr. Sean Daneshmand might be best known for assisting Tori Spelling’s premature delivery during her San Diego-based reality TV show, Tori and Dean: Inn Love, or from his appearances on Doctor Oz to discuss the high-risk pregnancies he faces as a perinatologist.
But rather than fall into the category of “celebrity doctor,” Daneshmand has focused on Miracle Babies, his 4-year-old nonprofit that provides prenatal education and awareness, as well as post-delivery aid in everything from baby supplies to financial assistance, to low-income parents.
“Core to Miracle Babies is the idea of creating three things: health, respect and hope,” says Daneshmand. “So often we are focused on the children and overlook the mother. But if we can help the mother both before and after pregnancy, it will have a great effect on the child’s future.”
The group’s Healthy Women Healthy Children program takes preventive aims against factors such as obesity, which can lead to early labor. Teeming with physicians and three San Diego South Bay YMCA facilities, the program offers low-income, potentially at-risk mothers free childcare, exercise classes and nutritional counseling, with the goal of reducing weight-related pregnancy issues like hypertension.
Miracle Babies programs are growing nationwide—Atlanta’s Northside Hospital marks the latest outreach. Daneshmand adds that philanthropic efforts in San Diego fuel the group’s growth both locally and nationally.
The group’s annual Casino Royale gala earned nearly $100,000 this year and has become an event that features a who’s who of the socialite set. And returning the TV favor, Tori Spelling’s husband, Dean McDermott, picked Miracle Babies as the recipient of his $50,000 charitable prize after winning Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off on Food Network earlier this year.
Master Planner: The Heat is On
Vying to stand out from the crowd, S.D.’s top galas and events have adopted a common strategy: Enlist chef Andrew Spurgin. A far cry from your average caterer, the bespoke event stylist has a mind that’s been called “holographic” by his peers, and has made lushly layered details, often with a historical reference point, his signature style. For example, when tapped to design the VIP gala for the New Children’s Museum this fall, he looked to the museum’s current foodcentric exhibition for inspiration. From that simple launching point came Feasting in Versailles, a study in decadence, complete with custom Marie Antoinette gowns, scripted theatrical vignettes, a soundtrack and even baby animals. “I took ‘gala,’ screwed it up like a piece of paper and threw it out the window,” says Spurgin. Although his eponymous company is in demand across the country, Spurgin is the consummate giver, donating some 25 percent of his time on behalf of causes and organizations he believes in, including the March of Dimes, A Reason to Survive, San Diego Oceans Foundation and San Diego Slow Food. “Being hands-on responsible for change is the currency of life for me,” he says.
Eco Hero: On Board
When Cardiff infamously erected a goofy surf statue, now known as the Cardiff Kook, locals wondered why the town didn’t just pay homage to a native son: pro surfer Rob Machado (robmachadofoundation.org). The wild-haired waterman has a long history of charity and eco-mindedness with his eponymous foundation, be it installing reclaimed trash bins at his local beaches or organizing cleanups. His latest venture, Hydration Nation, is with Hurley H2O. The two are jointly trying to combat global water scarcity while promoting campus sustainability. Several filling stations have been installed at SoCal high schools, where students are asked to ditch single-use water bottles in favor of canteens. Cheers to that.
RSVP Musts: These are the A-list events on everyone's lips.
1. MCASD’s annual gala, Monte Carlo, upped the ante this past year with a new art ambassador and a Tom DeLonge playlist.
2. For 67 years, Las Patronas has continued to outdo itself with its annual Jewel Ball at the transformed La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. Way to keep the inspiration, ladies.
3. Starry Starry Night sparkles at the twinkly Rancho Valencia Resort, the home to Voices for Children’s fundraiser.
4. The Old Globe Gala is an oldie but a goodie, and thanks to the arrival of a NYC Shakespeare expert as the Globe’s new leader, everything is encoreworthy.
5. Feeding America’s Sunset Soiree is a new must on the calendar, thanks to its star power. Who doesn’t love Larry King?
Chris Rutgers first tasted the power of the outdoors at 18, when he left behind an abusive childhood and moved to the mountains.
Working as a dishwasher by night, Rutgers learned to ski by day and quickly became a competitive freeskier, gaining a newfound sense of confidence and direction. Seven years later, Rutgers could have easily milked the life of a professional athlete. Instead, he moved to San Diego to start a nonprofit that would help at-risk youth by introducing them to positive experiences in the outdoors.
Since 1999, Outdoor Outreach (outdooroutreach.org) has taken 7,500 kids from inner-city San Diego schools on more than 2,500 local trips to go surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking. In the last five years, at schools with graduation rates as low as 45 percent, all of the Outdoor Outreach participants graduated, with 95 percent moving on to college.
Outdoor Outreach has received numerous awards and racked up hundreds of successful case studies. One student, Ryan Hudson, who lived in homeless shelters all through high school, went on to become a professional snowboarder, now sponsored by companies like The North Face and Vans. Just this past year, Hudson climbed Mount Denali alongside snowboard legend Jeremy Jones and the famous writer Jon Krakauer. There’s a movie coming out soon—stay tuned.
By the time November finally rolls around, Becca Craig is more than ready to see her three kids again. “They each have several costumes that they wear throughout the month,” laughs Craig about her brood of masquerading quick-change artists and her family’s crazy Octobers. Of course they come by it naturally: Craig’s husband, Jason, owns Party City.
And blonde socialite Craig is quickly becoming the life of the party. For the last two years, she has chaired Voices for Children’s Wine, Women & Shoes at the RSF estate of Patricia Brutten. Once just a fashionable precursor to the charity’s main gala—Starry Starry Night—with Craig putting her best Valentino-clad foot forward, Wine, Women & Shoes has become a bona fide highlight of the social calendar, raising more than $300,000 in the last two years alone. “Awareness of the event is growing,” says Craig, who’s on a mission to help San Diego children and instill in them a sense of social responsibility. “It’s about teaching family values and giving back,” she says. Though VFC, which helps San Diego foster children through its CASA program, was a natural fit, the petite powerhouse finds time for other pet causes as well, like the Gillespie School of La Jolla, Angels Foster Network, La Jolla Music Society, Rady Children’s Hospital, The Ronald McDonald House, Heals2Heal and Kids Korps. And we can’t forget to mention another of her favorites: the Girl Scouts. Who wouldn’t want a Missoni-clad troop leader?
Tech Talk: Getting Schooled
With parents tired of constantly cracking checkbooks for school bake sales and raffles, schools are finding new ways of raising funds, thanks to DonorNation. Launched earlier this year by Karim Pirani, a Del Mar entrepreneur, the online service allows individuals to raise funds for any of 142 different San Diego schools by buying and selling products, services and used items, not just overcooked Bundt cakes. Former hedge fund specialist Pirani saw the difficulties schools face raising money and set out to find a platform that focused more on needs and less on checkwriting. Companies like TOMS Shoes has made “cause marketing” trendy, and Pirani sees DonorNation as “the epitome of a cause- marketing marketplace.” “We’ve built an eBay, Craigslist and Amazon all-in-one with a percentage of proceeds going to schools and nonprofits,” says Pirani. “It’s a marketplace for the heart.”
Cause Celeb: Comic Relief
With the hotly anticipated, ’80s-themed Anchorman 2 set to hit theaters next month, what better time to celebrate Ron Burgundy? In real life, actor Will Ferrell should also be applauded for his dedication to the San Diego-based charity Cancer for College (cancerforcollege.org), which provides college scholarships to cancer survivors. Ferrell was college buds with Craig Pollard, the cancer-surviving founder, and has made regular appearances at the charity’s annual golf classic (not to mention last year’s Will Powered Holiday Craft Beer Bus in North Park), despite his booming stardom. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the golf tournament, which once featured 24 golfers in Pollard’s backyard. Today, it’s raised more than $1.75 million for more than 1,000 cancer survivors. In classic Burgundy style, Ferrell can be found on the charity’s website video, flubbing the details, saying the charity helps those born under the zodiac sign of Cancer. Stay generous, San Diego.
Three to Know: Field of Dreams
In 1960, John F. Kennedy observed, “Food is strength and food is peace.” In S.D., an up-and-coming hub of the agricultural universe, three farms and gardens have taken that mantra to heart. In National City, Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center (olivewoodgardens.org) is a 7-acre oasis in the middle of a food desert. In a neighborhood that has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the country, the garden’s hands-on cooking and garden classes are transforming an entire community’s eating habits. Nearby on the Tijuana estuary, Wild Willow Farm (sandiegoroots.org) is a champion of sustainable living with a CSA program and classes that aim to convert foodies to farmers, one backyard plot at a time. But perhaps nowhere is Kennedy’s sentiment more poignant than in City Heights, where resettled refugees from Somalia, Cambodia, Burma, Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Vietnam and Guatemala tend the 2.3-acre New Roots Community Farm (rescue.org), which Michelle Obama herself has visited. And up next? A New Roots farm in El Cajon will be a haven for Middle Eastern refugees.