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ANN CONWAY

Building Up Foundation's Fund-Raisers

June 03, 1996|ANN CONWAY

It has become their dream, say Juditha and Lou Brown, to establish a nationwide network of gala benefits for the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation.

Since the foundation was established after their daughter was slain nearly two years ago, the Dana Point couple have learned of the dire need to provide shelter for victims of domestic violence.

"There are so many women and children who need a place to go," said Juditha Brown last week. "And since the foundation grants money to shelters, we need to have fund-raisers."

Their goal, said Lou Brown, foundation treasurer, "is to have a benefit at least every month somewhere around the country."

So far, foundation money has mostly come from donations and benefits in Orange County. The Browns are grateful for the support. "People have been so kind and generous," Lou Brown said. "At the end of last year, we distributed $168,000 to 78 shelters in 32 states."

The foundation's black tie gala, "Always in Our Hearts," will take place June 29 in the ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The $200 per person event--which is open to the public--will include a five-course dinner, auction and dancing.

Los Angeles attorney Christopher Darden and TV host Geraldo Rivera will emcee.

"I'll be there and other members of the O.J. Simpson prosecution team will be there," said Darden last week, during a visit to the couple's Monarch Bay home.

Darden doesn't yet have a date for the event. But there is no shortage of prospects, he admitted, smiling. "I didn't know there were so many women in the world with 8-by-10 glossies."

And no, Marcia Clark is not his significant other. But, of course, he's in love with her. "Who wouldn't love a woman like Marcia?"

Besides her intelligence, wit and integrity, "she makes a great fish stew, and she's a good sport at losing in billiards," Darden said.

Settling down on an overstuffed living room sofa with her husband and Darden, an earnest Juditha Brown said: "I don't want anybody to think this gala is going to be a sad thing. We're going to have a good time. Domestic violence is there and we have to face it, but that doesn't mean we have to cry all the time. Life goes on."

Darden nodded. He too is trying to move on. "I just regret the fact that we didn't get a conviction," he said, solemnly. "I'm doing fine, but I haven't forgotten what happened, haven't forgotten Ron and Nicole, the Goldmans or the Browns. And I shouldn't. I don't think any of us should."

He said he is happy to assist the Browns at the June 29 gala. "There isn't anything I wouldn't do for them. They are great people--a wonderful family," he said. "They seem to be doing well, the best we could expect or hope. They are still in pain. And they probably will always be in pain."

People can help by continuing to donate to the foundation and attending its fund-raisers, he believes. "We have to do more to protect the women in the country and in this community."

To women who may be living with an abusive partner, Darden had this advice: "Number one, understand and realize that if you are in an abusive relationship, it isn't your fault. He is the one with the problem. Get out--out of the relationship, out of the house. Get your kids out. The harm and effect of existing in a relationship like that would transcend the relationship itself."

Lou Brown's work with the foundation gives him the strength to face each day. "I hear from people daily about how they got out of situations, how they realized there was a better life and so on," he said.

Ironically, "everything Simpson says keeps the foundation in the eye of the people," he added. "We sort of look at it as the other side of the whole thing. Maybe he was set up by the jury to be not guilty, or whatever, for a purpose, because it seems to be working in favor of information getting out about spousal abuse, about integrity, about character. It's amazing."

For gala information, call (714) 443-4200.

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