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Staying the Course for Abused Kids

August 06, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

Supporters of Childhelp USA, many of them from Los Angeles, got a taste of Orange County when they visited an estate once owned by John Wayne and partied aboard a palatial 127-foot yacht.

About 150 guests, most clad in nautical attire, attended the dinner and cruise Sunday at the Newport Beach mansion of Robert and Beverly Cohen. The $175-per-person gala was expected to net about $10,000 for Childhelp, which provides shelter and treatment programs for abused children.

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Cruising in Style

Party-goers first wandered through the Cohens' bay-side chateau admiring the elegant antiques and furnishings, which included a life-sized cutout of the Duke. Then they boarded the Cohen yacht, called the P'zazz, for a short cruise around the harbor.

"It's our dream boat. We named it the P'zazz because that's the kind of people we are," Beverly Cohen said. "Everyone says we're full of pizazz."

The Cohens, owners of the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, are active in Childhelp's Los Angeles chapter. This was the third time the couple has opened their home to the organization's supporters.

"There's a lot of need out there," Robert Cohen said.

While the yacht circled the harbor, guests enjoyed cocktails and relaxed on overstuffed sofas.

"It's not quite as big as my yacht," quipped Chuck Bolte, Childhelp's chief operating officer, who attended with his wife, Soozi.

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A Warm Summer's Night

After returning to land, everyone adjourned to the patio overlooking the harbor. There, they sat at tables draped in green cloth and decorated with pink roses and other fresh flowers. Top Hat Productions served the gourmet fare--salmon Wellington, baron of beef and dessert crepes.

"Summer months are notoriously bad for [nonprofit] organizations. People forget you're there," said Sara O'Meara, co-founder of Childhelp. "This evening gives us a lift."

O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson founded Childhelp in 1959, when both actresses were invited to entertain American troops in Japan. A typhoon struck when the pair were overseas, leaving many children homeless.

"We placed them in a home and promised to support them," Fedderson said.

O'Meara and Fedderson formed Childhelp (then called International Orphans Inc.) to support the orphanage. Over the years the organization has expanded, its focus shifting to residential treatment centers for abused children.

Childhelp has two group homes that shelter 12 children in Orange County. Gala proceeds will support the Village of Childhelp in Beaumont, which houses 80 children. The children are usually removed from abusive homes by the courts.

"Our children tend to be the most severely abused," Fedderson said.

Among the Childhelp supporters attending the gala: Jim and Patti Edwards, president of Childhelp's Orange County chapter; Jane Carolyn Kramer, event co-chairwoman, and her husband, Gordon Kelly; Anna Petruzzelli, western regional board president of Childhelp; Doug and Lindah Miles, Jackie and Sydney Rosenberg; and Denise McNeil.

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