Carolers, bell ringers and a sleigh filled with polar bears turned the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel into a "Winter Night Fantasy" for the 17th annual Todos Seasonal Soiree.
More than 150 guests in sparkling holiday attire showed up Thursday for the Yuletide gala staged by Todos, a support group for St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. The $125-per-person event netted about $20,000 for the hospital's Emergency Care Center.
Men in tuxedos with festive ties and cummerbunds and women in glittering dresses were greeted at the hotel ballroom by the caroling group Sing, Sing, Sing--a quartet dressed in Victorian costumes. Inside, a small stage was decked with snow-covered trees and a sleigh of stuffed bears.
"We wanted to make people feel warm, like they just came in from a crisp, cool evening," said Mike Conkey, event chairman.
Guests first shopped for last-minute gifts at a silent auction. Items ranged from a tour of the Anaheim Police Department to an $18,000 Schimmel Chippendale grand piano, which pianist John Ehrhart demonstrated by playing Christmas carols. Opening bid on the piano was $8,000; there were no takers, so it will be sold on consignment.
After a dinner of chicken stuffed with crab meat and loin of lamb followed by creme brulee , the caroling quartet visited each table and sang requests. Afterward the Praise Ringers bell choir rang out Yuletide tunes.
Todos, which means "everyone" in Spanish, was formed in 1978 to support St. Joseph Hospital.
"The goal is to get everybody from all walks of life involved," said Kate Reeves, former president of Todos.
Proceeds from the gala will be part of Todos' five-year, $500,000 campaign to build the hospital's new emergency room, which will break ground in January and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
"The emergency room was originally set up for 40 patients a day, and we're running 160," said Charlie Kovac, a hospital trustee.
Reeves understands the dire need for a larger ER. She was director of St. Joseph's emergency department for 14 years before retiring.
"Even when I was there, we were cramped. When you have to crawl over one patient to get to another, it's time for a new ER," she said.
Reeves, who has served as a consultant for the TV show "ER," said the program accurately portrays the crowded conditions of a real emergency room. That night's "ER" episode was based on an actual event at St. Joseph:
"I told them we had a Santa Claus who had a seizure. He came in wearing his full regalia," she said. She was taping the show on her VCR.
Among the party-goers were: Dennis Monge, Todos president, with wife Judith Harrison-Monge and sons Matt and Mike; Larry Ainsworth, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Hospital, and his wife, Laura; Robert Eagan, director of St. Joseph's Cancer Center, and his wife, Mary Beth; Dominick and Zora Gentile; George Holmes; Pat Kelly; Artie Killen; Milly Kovac; Heidi Muth; William and Rosalind Ostermiller; Jim and Linda Pierog; David and Virginia Reed; Reed and Rita Sprinkel; Richard and Jennifer Statuto, and Jevelyn Yonchar.