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Benjamin Epstein

Candy Cane Ball Supports a New Cause

December 17, 1985

Those who thought a Candy Cane Ball to benefit a children's dental clinic a mite ironic will be pleased to know the Assistance League of Newport Beach Junior Auxiliary has a new project: Operation School Bell.

On second thought, the new operation is not without its ironies either: According to Jean Wegener, chairman of the Candy Cane ball held Saturday night in the Deauville Ballroom of the Hotel Meridien in Newport Beach, Operation School Bell is intended to clothe needy children in the Newport Mesa School District.

"Sure, I know it sounds like, 'In Newport Beach? Gimme a break!' " admitted Wegener. "But they're lining up for appointments. Remember, there are trailer parks alongside all those nice homes. Part-time custodians and farm workers live in the district, too."

Newport Beach being what it is, the auxiliary is going first class all the way.

"The children get brand new clothes that you would see on the most well-to-do child in Newport--Neiman Marcus labels, whatever," Wegener explained. "The clothes either come brand new from stores after their sales or almost new from our members. When Nip'n Tuck (for children) went out of business, they gave us everything.

"We try to take care of the whole family--we know it could be a problem if we pick one child and say we're going to clothe him and not the others. You should see the excitement on their faces, when they haven't had a pair of shoes."

Generated $50,000

A record 528 guests attended the dinner and silent auction. (For a silent auction, participants' bids are written and no auctioneer is required. The evening did not include, as one public relations representative maintained, a "blind auction," a decidedly innovative notion wherein guests would bid on unseen items.) The auction and chances for opportunity prizes generated $50,000 for Operation School Bell, the league's Child Day Care Center in Costa Mesa and Children's Dental Health Center in Newport Beach.

One of the unsung heroes of the evening had to be Chad Smith, 13, of Corona del Mar. Manning an LGB, the world's largest scale-model train and one of the auction items, Smith made sure the train reversed directions--back and forth, back and forth--before reaching the end of the track; he answered questions without shirking his duties for a moment.

Who hired you?

"My mom, the one in the green dress."

How long do you have to do this?

"Till dinner starts. Do you know how long that'll be?"

Smith's stint lasted nearly three hours.

But, amazingly enough, most of the partygoers didn't seem to mind the long reception.

"We're a really laid-back group," explained Terry Brigham of Irvine. "Hors d'oeuvres, a few libations, some dance music, and we're fine."

Brigham's wife, Dora, was underwriting chairman, the auxiliary's first. Her job was to find sponsors to defray specific expenses--to pay for the band, for instance.

"Up to this year, costs really cut down on our profits," explained Dora Brigham. "Now all I can say is, why didn't we do this before?

"It was a little scary for me at the beginning, going out and trying to explain that this was really a worthy cause. But I was very surprised. Everybody listened, and companies or individuals, they all said, 'That sounds great.' It was really rewarding to have them say, 'Here's a check, you're worth it'--and definitely more rewarding for me than just coming in and helping with the decorations."

The men wore mostly black-tie; the women--a smashing bunch, lots of jewelry, lots of glitter--helped dispel a popular myth: Far from horrified at showing up in identical dresses, Syd Balalis and Diane Walker, in black with multicolor polka dots, and Carolyn Biscaro and auxiliary chairman Carol Hoppe, in black velvet with burgundy sleeves, reveled in the coincidence.

Origin of Ball

Master of ceremonies Robert Ball reminded the crowd of the origins of the Candy Cane Ball: It began as a dinner-dance at the Balboa Bay Club in 1949; tickets were $6 per couple.

High bid of the evening in the silent auction was that of Marty and Amelia Lockney, who preferred that the bid not be disclosed but who will take a trip for two from Venice to London aboard the Orient Express. Bobbie Roberts was silent auction chairwoman.

More than 100 members of the Center 500, a fund-raising group of young professionals affiliated with the Orange County Performing Arts Center, enjoyed a tour of the Irvine Co. Collection of contemporary art and seafood kebabs Friday night at the Irvine Co. offices in Newport Center.

Christmas Party chairman Paula Mathews took the opportunity to announce the first-ever triathlon in Orange County on June 1; the three-event marathon (swimming, cycling and running) will take place in and around Lake Mission Viejo.

"Although they're very time-consuming and require a lot of manpower, athletic events have the biggest turnouts and seem to raise the most funds," explained Mathews. "We've gotten approval from all the county agencies. Now all we need is about 400 volunteers to pull it off.

Hopes for $100,000

"Oh, yes, and a sponsor," she added, noting that approximately $50,000 is required to stage the triathlon. Mathews, who is hoping the event will generate $100,000 for the center, is working with two possible sponsors.

Center 500 member Wayne Snyder of El Toro didn't know whether the Irvine Co. was one of the possibilities; nevertheless, he lauded its sponsorship of one charity event or another seemingly every night of the year.

"They're considered the 'Deep Pockets' of Orange County," he said.

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