"Kids are the future," said L.A. Lakers star Michael Cooper as he stood shyly at the edge of a crowd in Sherman and Myrna Solaas' custom manse in Fullerton.
And children are what brought Cooper and teammate Earvin (Magic) Johnson to Orange County Saturday night.
The blade-thin, mile-high basketball idols were among 400 guests at a benefit for Mothers & Others Against Child Abuse. At $55 per person--with drinks and raffle tickets extra--the fund-raiser netted an estimated $10,000, according to MOACA founder and executive director Sally Nava Kanarek.
Kanarek took a moment before guests arrived to talk about her nonprofit, 4-year-old Orange County-based organization, which opened offices in Huntington Beach six months ago. MOACA--also called "Parent Help USA"--provides counseling to teen mothers, parents of physically or mentally impaired children and other families at risk of developing abusive relationships.
"We want to help families, instead of condemning them," Kanarek said. "Of course there should be condemnation of abuse--that goes without saying. But a very small percentage of (child abuse) is like these sensational headlines you read in the newspapers, with kidnaping by a stranger and all of that.
"Ninety-five to 98% of all abuse is parental," Kanarek said. "Our work is to identify families at risk of abuse and help the children by teaching their parents how to cope with stress without becoming abusive."
The hostess, Myrna Solaas, has been involved for two years with a church-related counseling program for single pregnant women ages 15 to 34. Solaas recently invited Kanarek to speak to one of her weekly "girls in crisis" groups, she said.
"A lot of the girls in my group said they would like to volunteer to counsel (families who come to MOACA)," Solaas said. "They've been through a lot, and they really have a lot to share with others who have started families and probably feel lonely and pressured and just need someone to talk to."
Guests cruised the Solaas' sprawling home and spilled out into the back yard, where gambling tables dotted the patio and manicured lawn amid multiple water hazards: swimming pool, bass pond, koi pond, 10-foot waterfall.
Inside, a pianist and drummer played pop and show tunes, buffet dinner was spread in the dining room, and MCs J.A. Preston (from "Hill Street Blues") and Ashlie Austin introduced the crowd to the sports celebs among them--including Ron Brown and Greg Bell from the Rams, and Wally Joyner from the California Angels.