Life-size toy soldiers, Raggedy Anns and Andys, a well-known teddy bear and his famous cousin did more than set the theme for "Fantasies in Toyland," the fashion-show benefit for Childrens Hospital of Orange County.
They were also a reminder of the reason behind the festivities: bringing joy to children, in this case, sick or injured children whose families might not be able to afford medical care.
"We are reminded of how closely children are associated with toys and fantasy," said Carolyn Tobin, chairwoman, speaking to the crowd after an appearance by hospital mascot Choco the Bear and Mickey Mouse. (Choco, wearing his perpetual arm bandage, is a distant cousin of the famous rodent: both were designed by Disney artists.)
The $40-a-person event raised more than $200,000 for the CHOC Ambulatory Care Center, where more than 40,000 children are treated annually, according to Howard Jones, president of CHOC's board of directors.
"Because of the work these women do, treatment at the clinic is readily available to any child in urgent need, regardless of finances," Jones said. The clinic provides free care worth more than $1 million each year.
The fashion show has turned over more than $1 million to the clinic since it began in 1962, according to Helen Wardner, director of support groups at CHOC.
Now the largest fashion show in Orange County, according to Tobin, the event has become so popular that it was held on two consecutive days, last Thursday and Friday, for the third year in a row. There were 1,500 in attendance each night at the event, which featured fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue.
For Tobin, the show was the culmination of more than five years of anticipation. Chairwomen are selected years in advance from among the board of directors of the 14 CHOC women's guilds. "The years seem to have gone by so quickly," Tobin said during Thursday's lunch. Her family, including husband Hal, sons Craig and Rick, her father, Lloyd Simpkins, and her mother, Ruth, were all on hand for the occasion. (So were the four bridesmaids from the Tobins' wedding nearly 25 years ago.)
Under Tobin's leadership, the hospital's 14 guilds, with about 1,800 members, worked together to stage the event. Although the show grows larger every year, Wardner said experience helps things go smoothly. "We try not to reinvent the wheel too many times," she said.