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Young Patients Star at Their Art Auction

May 19, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Smiling suns, happy houses, hearts and flowers and tiny handprints--children's artwork is priceless, isn't it?

Last Thursday, bidders at a fund-raiser for the Orange County Ronald McDonald House put a more precise value on it: $23,600 for 18 paintings by young patients at Childrens Hospital of Orange County.

The art auction was the highlight of a dual-purpose party given by developers Bruce and Carl Akins and William Lyon. In addition to bringing in more than $75,000 for the Ronald McDonald House for families of hospitalized children, the $100-a-person event was an opportunity for the developers to show off model homes in their new Canyon View subdivision in the Santiago Hills community of the city of Orange.

A pianist entertained the more than 300 guests as they sampled a buffet set up in a tent outside one of the models. Workers framing houses nearby punctuated the evening air with the sound of hammering.

The developers contributed $20,000 to the Ronald McDonald House fund as well as underwriting the costs for the event.

"We've always had opening parties to thank all the subcontractors we work with on a project," Bruce Akins explained. "But this time, we wanted it to have a double whammy, so we decided to turn it into a fund-raiser. So from now on, whenever we go into a new community, we'll do one of these, always for a charity that is in that community."

Ground was broken at a ceremony in February for Orange County's Ronald McDonald House, to be built near CHOC in Orange. More than 100 Ronald McDonald houses in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe already provide temporary housing for families of critically ill children.

Construction on the Orange County house must wait until plans are approved by the city, but Marc Widdicombe, fund-raising chairman for the project, said he hopes work can begin next month and the $1.3-million, 20-bedroom house can be completed by January, 1989.

Widdicombe, whose family owns and operates three McDonalds restaurants in Garden Grove, says the house will make things easier not only for out-of-town families who bring their children to CHOC, but those from Orange County as well.

"The drive from home to the hospital can be 45 minutes or more one way, even for families that live in Orange County," he said. "It's really a struggle for many of them. I've talked to parents who sleep in hospital hallways, who try so hard to keep their families together when a child is seriously ill. Sometimes it's just too much for them.

"And I've seen the difference in the children," he said. "Medicine and doctors are important, but if Mom and Dad aren't there, the child just isn't going to do as well."

The "under construction" aura surrounding the event seemed appropriate to Widdicombe, who likened the community effort behind the Ronald McDonald House to "an old-fashioned barn-raising. Three painters have already volunteered to paint the whole house, and we're talking to suppliers and the different trades to see if they can chip in," he said.

The CHOC patients were happy to do their part for the cause, according to recreation therapists Thea Calhoun and Karen Forbes. "Some of them come to the hospital every month for treatment, and it was exciting to have a special event for them," Forbes said. "For some of them, it was hard to let the paintings go when they were finished. But they were happy they could contribute to the cause."

"It's exciting for us, because we can see the kids behind the artwork," Calhoun said.

A painting called "Tiny Hands," featuring colorful handprints by a 16-month-old cancer patient, brought $3,000, the most for a single piece. The artists, ranging in age from 16 months to 12 years, were being treated for such illnesses as cancer, cystic fibrosis and kidney disease.

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