The event: "Ignite," a hip holiday party hosted by Orangewood PALS and Nordstrom South Coast Plaza to benefit the Orangewood Children's Foundation. More than 750 young professionals packed a hangar-like building in Costa Mesa's Orange County Expo Center recently for this hot-ticket affair featuring an interactive dance band and glam fashion show.
The haute spot: Low lighting, loud music and a martini bar topped by an ice sculpture set the scene of a trendy urban nightclub for partygoers. A huge platform dominated the center of the room. Long tables laden with cheese, fruit, pastas and sinfully rich desserts lined the sides. A lounge, hidden behind the haze-filled dance floor, beckoned with pool and cigars.
High fashion: Between dining and dancing, guests crowded the sides of the room to watch models strutting in the latest rock 'n' roll-inspired leathers and silks. The audience was equally trendy, with women glittering in sequins, gold, feathers and temporary crystal tattoos.
"There aren't too many parties for young people," said Keri Dugan, who co-chaired the event with PALS Board Member Susan Mason Hill. "This is a blast."
Hill agreed: "We try to make it hip, edgy and fun. For many people, this is their initiation to a charity."
Friends indeed: PALS volunteers--the initials stand for Providing Assistance, Love and Support--have been working to prevent child abuse and neglect in Orange County since 1996 when the group was an auxiliary of the Orangewood Children's Foundation. In addition to financial assistance, PALS volunteers organize outings for children at Orangewood Children's Home and participate in mentoring programs.
Quote: Incoming Board Chairman Richard Dutch has been involved with PALS for four years. In addition to teaching resume skills and offering advice on alternatives to college at the group homes, he helped institute a monthly PALS Night, bringing in guest speakers to talk to the children on the importance of staying in school, staying off drugs and overcoming adversity.
"I believe we are the product of our environment," Dutch said. "It's important to me to do what I can to make a difference in the life of even one of these children. They are our future."
Bottom line: The event netted $100,000, which will be used to fund the foundation's On My Own programs for 18-year-olds leaving the foster-care system. The program offers college scholarships, job placement and living facilities.
"There is such a crying need right now," Executive Director Gene Howard said. "About 250 kids leave foster care every year in Orange County; as many as 45% become homeless."
For information: Call (714) 741-9368 or visit http://www.orangewoodpals.org.