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Early Hours for the March of Dimes

Up at Dawn, O.C.'s Corporate Leaders Gather for the Cause

March 08, 2001|ANN CONWAY

Alarm clocks set for the crack of dawn, hundreds of corporate leaders stepped into power suits to attend a 7:30 a.m. breakfast sponsored by the Orange County March of Dimes at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Tennis Club.

The event raised $90,000 to help underwrite the nonprofit organization's 31st annual WalkAmerica benefit on April 29 at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

"We plan to raise more than $800,000 at the walk," said Deborah Harrington--event co-chair with Richard Hopcraft and Don Vodra--who rose at 5:30 a.m. last week to get her 6-year-old twins off to school before rushing to the fund-raiser. "The breakfast helps us get corporations involved."

Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T Wireless in Cerritos, told the crowd that attending his first leadership breakfast a few years ago inspired him to rally his employees around the March of Dimes' effort to "save babies."

Healthy babies are "what WalkAmerica is all about," he told guests as they sipped steamin' java and sampled eggs Benedict. "We buy our employees lunch, have fun, wear ugly colored shirts and everybody knows who we are."

March of Dimes' Ambassador Justin Cooper, 10, of La Palma, knows firsthand the value of the research that comes from funds raised by the organization.

"I was born with my heart under my armpit," said Justin, whose spiked hair stood tall with the gel he'd applied for the occasion. After corrective surgery at Children's Hospital in Orange, Justin's heart "shifted a little," he said, smiling. "I feel great."

Ed Arnold, breakfast emcee and longtime board member of the March of Dimes, called Justin one of the best ambassadors "an organization could have."

"He's always there," Arnold said, "and he always steals the show."

Five-year-old Trevor Dennis of Corona, a March of Dimes ambassador who was born with spina bifida--a defect characterized by imperfect closure of the spinal column--was also on hand to greet guests.

Since it was founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a victim of polio, the March of Dimes has helped save the lives of millions of babies born prematurely or with defects.

"We were all babies once, and most of us arrived unscathed," said author Mark Victor Hansen (co-editor of "Chicken Soup for the Soul"), honorary chairman of WalkAmerica in Orange County. "Wouldn't it be nice to have every baby arrive loved, healthy and defect-proof?"

Information: (949) 263-1100.

Saluting Role Models

Celebrating the "cultural pride, unity, hard work and faith" exemplified by their parents, Maria Elena Avila joined with members of her family to receive the Cesar Chavez Community Service Award on Saturday from the Hispanic Bar Assn. of Orange County.

"This is a great honor," Avila said during the event at the Westin South Coast Plaza, where hundreds of people gathered to raise funds for the association's Wallace R. Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund for Latino law students. "It's the first time our family has received an award together."

Frank del Olmo, a Los Angeles Times associate editor who has received the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Meritorious Public Service, was presented with the association's Hispanic Outreach Award.

The award winners personified the positive role models sought by the Latino community to inspire people to pursue professional careers, association president John. J. Isaza said.

Statistics show that in 2000, for example, while "32% of the entire population of California was Hispanic, less than 3% of California attorneys were Hispanic," said Isaza, an international lawyer who lives in Laguna Beach.

The reasons are two-fold: "Empowerment issues and financial issues," he said. "And the most important issue is empowerment, because people can have the intelligence and the ability but they don't realize they have the role models to let them know they can do it.

"Tonight is about showing them that there are positive role models, . . . that there are a group of influential Hispanics out there who can make a difference."

Guests also included Sal and Maria Avila, Victor and Stephanie Avila, Sergio and Marybell Avila, Margie Avila, Lisa Avila Broussard and Timothy Broussard, master of ceremonies Wylie Aitken, C. Robert Jameson, William Vega, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), Cory Aguirre, Nadia M. Davis, and Victor E. Chavez.

Much Ado About Everything

They loved the deadly wit. The musical numbers. The '30s setting. The glamorous costumes--how they loved the costumes.

Theater buffs who attended the premiere night performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" on Friday at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa raved about director Mark Rucker's silver screen-inspired version of the Shakespeare classic.

"A romp. A kick in the pants," declared theater activist Olivia Johnson.

"Entertaining. Different," said philanthropist Henry Samueli.

"Innovative," said theater buff Marvin Winkler.

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