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BENEFITS O.C.

An Event of Olympian Proportions

March 18, 1997|KATHRYN BOLD

The event: An Olympic-style competition to benefit the $18-million Discovery Science Center, due to open next year in Santa Ana. A dozen Olympians cheered Saturday as supporters tested their strength and coordination on science exhibits at the Launch Pad in South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court, Costa Mesa.

New five-ring sports: Guests, many sporting red, white and blue warmup suits, split into 15 groups of 10 and took turns trying their hands at wacky games such as Wiffle ball at the pitching cage and Bernoulli ball, in which contestants tossed a blow-up ball onto a column of air. "These are simple games. You don't have to crawl through mud," promised Lana Chandler,

one of three chairs at the event.

Pure gold: Kim Rhode, who won a gold medal for trap shooting in 1996, was one of referees who awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to the winning teams. The El Monte resident, who passed her gold medal around to guests, hopes to compete in Sydney in 2000,

then become a veterinarian.

"I'm a science fan myself,"

she said.

Weird science: Launch Pad's interactive exhibits, which let participants drive circles on scooters or toss marbles down a funnel, are previews of the soon-to-be-built Discovery Science Center.

Scheduled to open next spring, the first phase of the 50,000-square-foot center will feature more than 100 exhibits, including a climbing wall, flight simulators and a build-it-yourself robot. The second phase will include a domed theater and additional exhibit space.

Quote: "A lot of science appears to be so mystical and beyond a lot of people's understanding," said Wendy Offield, event co-chairwoman. "But when you can really look at and play with the exhibits, you realize that science is not something out there."

From Mount Olympus: Gold medalist Bruce Furniss (swimming '76), who served as emcee, reminded the crowd of the Olympic motto that "the important thing is not to win, but to take part."

Other Southern California Olympians attending were:

Al Joyner (triple jump '84);

Cathy Marino Bradford (kayaking '88 and '92); Jody Campbell (water polo '84 and '88); Gary Carlsen (track and field--discus '68); Barbara Farrell-Edmondson (sprinter '68 and '72); Cathy Ferguson (swimming '76); Valerie Brisco Hooks sprinter '84); Bill and Julie Leach (kayaking '76); Sammy Lee (diving '48 and '52); and Pat McCormick (diving '52).

Faces in the crowd: Anton Segerstrom, event co-chairman; honorary event chairwomen Donna Crean and Peggy Goldwater Clay; Karen Johnson, director of the Discovery Science Center; James "Walkie" Ray, board president, and his wife, Janet; Russ and Cheryl Wakeham; Andy and Charlene Crean; Dave and Shari Brown; Royal Radtke; and Robert and Gege Escalante.

Bottom line: The $65-per-person Launch Pad benefit was expected to net about $40,000 for the center's building fund. Supporters have raised $17.8 million for the center, and a new campaign is under way to raise $25 million for the second phase.

What's ahead: The Ken Forsch Invitational golf tournament, a center benefit to be held May 19 at Pelican Hills in Newport Beach. For information, call (714) 540-2001.

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