Prominent business leaders, politicians and others dedicated to conquering learning disabilities attended a tribute to Carl Karcher by the Mardan Center of Educational Therapy on Saturday night. Nearly 400 attended the black-tie awards dinner at Hotel Meridien in Newport Beach. The event celebrated the center's 25th anniversary. Karcher was chosen for the award because of his service to the Orange County community, organizers said. He has been involved in 20 Orange County charity organizations, including Providence Speech and Hearing Center, Padrinos of Childrens Hospital of Orange County, South Coast Repertory Theater and Boy Scouts of America.
Karcher, who founded the Carl's Jr. restaurant chain, said he had visited Mardan for the first time six weeks ago. "I was so impressed with the facilities and the people who were there," he said. "What a heartwarming experience it was."
Mardan's executive director David Eisenman said he founded the school because, as a teacher and school psychologist, he had seen many bright children with learning disabilities.
Said board president Carol Hoffman: "These children may be great in math but unable to read. They may not be able to concentrate or remember their birthday, but they have normal intelligence and can learn when they're given special help."
Mardan's 90 students range from preschool to high school and most often remain for less than three years. "Our goal is to mainstream them back into the public schools," Hoffman said.
Board member Steve Adler, 29, said he owes his success in life to the year he spent at Mardan. He recalled that as a youngster he had problems with visual perception.
"Mardan teaches you to believe in yourself," said Adler, who subsequently graduated from UCLA with honors. He now serves as executive vice president of his family's business, Adler Shoes.
Melissa Hall, 20, said she had given up on school before entering Mardan as a youngster. She said that, instead of attending classes, she spent three years "hanging around with friends basically doing nothing. I lost interest in school, and school lost interest in me. No one said anything. No one cared."
Eisenman remembered that when Hall arrived at Mardan, she had been accident prone, exceptionally self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem.
Hall told her story to the audience with grace, dignity and self-assurance. She now works as a medical assistant to a pediatric allergist.
Event co-chairman Ralph Sabin said the dinner, at $200 per person or $250 per person at "silver anniversary" tables, had raised $65,000 for Mardan scholarships.
Under an archway of red and white balloons, Barry Cole and the Sounds of Music played for guests who crowded the dance floor between courses of smoked fish with caviar sauce, veal chop, goat cheese salad and lemon tart.
Tom Fuentes was emcee. Thomas Testman was event co-chairman. Committee members included Jeanne Karcher, Gladys DeRubis, Beth du Bruyne, Karen Fullerton, Mary Ellen Hadley, Kathleen Kerrigan, Leah Ann Lauritzen, Linda Mangold, Vivian Patterson, Susan Sabin and Jill Watkins.
Businesses represented included the Irvine Co., Santa Margarita Co., Aircal, Disneyland and Rockwell International. Politicos included Rep. Robert Badham (R-Newport Beach), State Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton), Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) and Orange County Supervisor Tom Riley.
Skies were clear, the mountain view was crisp and the sun was shining on the Santa Margarita Catholic High School site in Mission Viejo on Sunday, when 275 people gathered for a family barbecue and tour.
With Father Michael Harris as guide, potential students and their parents trekked through the 36-acre campus under construction, past the Administration Building, computer laboratories, classrooms, arts center, gymnasium and chapel. Father Harris, who now is principal of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, will be founding principal of the new school when it opens in September.
He said that of the estimated $25-million construction cost, the Diocese of Orange has committed $12.5 million and that more than $7 million has been raised privately.
The school project got under way in 1983, when the Moiso, Avery and O'Neill families donated land for the school. Tony Moiso and Art Birtcher now head the campaign for "leadership" gifts of $100,000 or more.
Said Moiso: "If Orange County is moving into the next generation with performing art centers, repertory theaters and museums, we'll need educational alternatives too.
"We're lucky here--our public schools are really very good, but many of us also value an independent education," he said. "When you combine that with a Catholic education, then you have it made."