National Child Awareness Month recently ended as September faded into fall. It seems we have names for every month; causes, tributes, movements, cultural shifts. Sometimes months have multiple names, and the message is lost in the clutter.
To the point, National Child Awareness matters. America’s children, arguably among the most fortunate alive on the planet are not as fortunate as we’d like to think. Statistics are alarming. Childhood poverty is at record levels, as is hunger, homelessness, and most serious, childhood abuse.
In Orange County the Festival of Children, founded some 20 years ago by Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, once again focused on the ever-present and expanding arenas of children’s needs here and now, in this one backyard. The Costa Mesa based organization finds its mission in bringing together many local nonprofits dedicated to child welfare for a monthlong series of events and fundraisers, with proceeds shared and divided among the participants.
The kickoff event in September attracted 300 nonprofit community and business leaders under the roof of Ancillary Studios, now in the former Sears Auto Center at South Coast Plaza.
At the event, the crowd was surrounded by fantasy “car décor” in an homage to the old function of the building. A $10-million Koenigsegg was wrapped in art created by avant garde artist James Jean.
Honors bestowed included the founder’s award going to Kimberly Cripe, president and chief executive of Children’s Hospital Orange County. The FRED Award (For Really Extraordinary Doers) was presented to Sebastian Perez, a 12-year-old boy born with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. Sebastian has dedicated his life to helping other kids.
Local “doers” in the crowd joining founder Sandy Segerstrom Daniels included O.C. Supervisor Katrina Foley and Costa Mesa Mayor John Stevens. The Honorable Lou Corea representing Michelle Steel was also front and center.
“There are so many incredible charities, individuals and companies on the front lines trying to meet every need and remove every obstacle for our children,” Segerstrom Daniels said.
Child abuse in its most serious form took center stage at Vanguard University’s Waugh Student Center presented by the Global Center for Women and Justice (GCWJ) led by its director Dr. Sandra Morgan. Featured speaker and special guest Nicole Suydam, president and chief executive of Goodwill Orange County, was on hand for the cause.
The eighth annual “Priceless” luncheon, named in honor of protecting priceless children worldwide, raised an impressive $200,000 that’s earmarked for a variety of services including legal, civic, and educational programs aimed at ending child trafficking.
“GCWJ Director Dr. Sandra Morgan delivered an impact report highlighting the center’s diligent work during the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued commitment to ending human trafficking. The GCWJ also launched an initiative focused on human trafficking prevention and survivor care that was inspired by Dr. Morgan’s service on the federal public private partnership advisory council under presidential appointment,” offered Kristin Scheithauer, publicist for the event.
“The Global Center for Women and Justice has been fighting for the dignity, justice and freedom for exploited individuals for 18 years,” Morgan said. “Exploitation and human trafficking occur everywhere — even here in Orange County.”
The “Priceless” event was co-chaired by Fernanda Brady and Alissa Sagud. Awards were bestowed upon advocates and survivors, including Shyima Hall and Nicole Strattman. Also recognized were the Orangewood Foundation and Vanguard adjunct professor and coach Ruthi Hanchett, along with Vanguard student Alexandra Niebaum.
Americans were moved to tears over the tragic events in the final days of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan that took the lives of 13 U.S. service members at the Kabul Airport during the evacuation. In Newport Beach, citizens Nick Nagel, Emily Ziebell and Anna Ziebell were motivated to organize a ceremonial “Paddle for Patriots” fundraisers to benefit the families of the lost servicemen and women.
At noon on Sept. 11, 35 local citizens organized by Nagel and the Ziebells launched paddle boards and kayaks donated by the Balboa Bay Club, the Newport Aquatic Center and the Newport Board Club. Paddlers included Tom Casey, Don and Leigh Bassler, Matt Claybough, Randy and Ellen Phelan, among others, entering the Newport Bay off the Balboa Bay Club docks and traveling west, ending at Billy’s at the Beach restaurant on the bay off Coast Highway. Then the entourage returned to the Balboa Bay Club.
Nagel, a U.S. Army first lieutenant, delivered an emotional tribute honoring the 13 lost at Kabul Airport along with remembering the victims of 9/11 on its 20th anniversary.
In a final upbeat message on this first Saturday in October, the Daily Pilot sends big hugs to Huntington Beach resident Dottie Lewis, who marked her 100th birthday on Sept. 25. Born in Peoria, Ill., Dottie arrived in California in 1942 during the difficult years of WWII. She married Glen Lewis and they shared a 64-year marriage.
In 1973 the Lewis family moved to Balboa Island and Dottie went to work opening Beach Time Realty in 1977; operating her well-known business for 30 years, retiring in 2016 at the age of 95. On the occasion of her 100th Dottie was surrounded by her two children and their spouses, three grandchildren and their spouses, six great- grandchildren, her sister and extended family and friends.
That’s what is called a life well-lived.