By E.M. Fredric
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – (The Hollywood Times) – 4/30/19 – The 7th Annual CASA of L.A. Evening to Foster Dreams Gala was a rousing success at the spectacularly decorated Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 24th. The million-dollar fundraising event brought together volunteers and dedicated community members to honor Los Angeles leaders who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to children who have been abused or neglected and are living in foster care or need to be.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA of Los Angeles (CASA/LA) welcomed back actor/activist Dax Shepard as their host. Shepard’s mother, has been a part of CASA for over ten years as he spoke movingly of her devotion and commitment to both the organization and the children she has fostered. He joked about his own two children (with wife Kristen Bell) being spoiled and wondering what playdate was too much or too many toys. Shepard came from a home that struggled financially and was raised by a very strong and loving mother – who even when a single parent – found ways to get Christmas presents to other families in their hometown.
I was seated with a very gracious group from J.P. Morgan and Associates who thanked me for joining them. Michael Bressler informed me that they bought the table yearly because of CASA/LA and his personal friendship with the man of the night, Lou Lucido. Lucido – CASA’s Los Angeles chair and well known philanthropist – received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Allyson Pfeifer, Gala Chair and CASA board member. Bressler explained how much the event meant to them in helping these children get adopted or back home with their families. That it’s their 5th year buying a table spoke volumes and I hope to rejoin them or meet some new CASA/LA supporters next year. The nature of the event was kindness and generosity and having been a “solo” parent, I appreciated the inclusiveness of everyone I met and particularly at table #208.
I would venture to say I had the best seat in the house – other than the honored Mr. Lucido – who gave a humorous but very touching acceptance speech. He informed us that it takes about $3,000 a year to train just one CASA volunteer before placement. Thousands of children would benefit from a CASA within L.A. County.
The admiration for this man was seen by how quickly his standing ovation happened and moreso because of the length of it. Lucido is the real deal – our kids need more of him.
*See Lou Lucido’s opening words in the video at the end of article.
This year Participant Media and its award-winning documentary Foster were honored at the glamorous event, which featured comedy, spoken word by Johna Rivers, a performance by Sharane Calister of NBC’s The Voice. The silent auction and gourmet fare all went to support the thousands of kids in foster care served by the organization. Live auctioneer – Jim Nye helped to raise the donation bar. With a $300,000 base wish – CASA/LA far exceeded their goal by the folks present and those phoning in donations as high as $10,000. They raised $88,000 from the silent auction and over $1,000,000 from the event in total with 710 attendees!
The live testimonials of the single or married couples – who have dedicated much of their lives to CASA/LA’s need for mentoring, assistance or permanent placement – along with the heartwarming real-life stories from children – were the core strings that resonated throughout the evening and will stay in the hearts of those present – long afterwards. Michael was right when he told me how addictive CASA/LA was – once you’re made aware of these children, families and their needs – you want to contribute or be a part of this special program.
The Robert Morrison Community Services Award was presented to Participant Media Deborah Oppenheimer and Mark Harris by Maria Sanchez and CASA volunteer, Cheryl Marino. The Bob Frandzel Memorial Award was presented to Dr. Wendy Smith and Barry Meyer by Congresswoman Karen Bass.
Some of the attendees were: LA Rams QB Jared Goff, Topher Grace, Ashley Hinshaw-Grace, Ramona Young, Nicky Whelan, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Marta Milans, Chrishell Hartley, Sloane Siegel, Joe Minoso, Eva-Marie Fredric, Christina Marie Moses, Jen Lilley, Tammy Townsend, Courtney Henggeler, Charlie Barnett, Haley Pullos, the subjects of the documentary feature Foster, Congresswoman Karen Bass, and author Regina Louise.
CASA/LA (www.casala.org) is a community-supported 501(c) (3) non-profit organization of dedicated staff and volunteers working one-on-one with children who have suffered the most serious cases of abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers, also called Advocates, work closely with a child to form a trusting relationship, giving that child a friend and someone who cares. Advocates help children in important ways such as comforting them through emotional trauma and transition, arranging for needed health care and social services, talking with teachers, participating with children in enriching activities, and advising judges about the child’s welfare. CASA/LA is among the largest of regional programs in a national and state-wide volunteer network serving foster children. Studies have shown that children with CASAs receive more assistance and support than children without, and are more likely to be adopted or returned to their home.
In this country and the loss of a middle-class we need more organizations to help our children, whether they’re in the foster system, latch-key or just handed some lousy hands in life. CASA/LA is one of the more devoted organizations and we need more across the board.
Check out Loss Through A Child’s Eyes and hopefully it will touch and educate that any and all organizations that help our countries kids need to become as successful, addictive and inspirational by CASA/LA’s example!
You can hear Dax Shepard as he interviews his mother about her life and she mentions CASA here in an episode of The Armchair Expert here: Laura Labo .
Kudos to event PR coordinator – Brian McWilliams from Spelling Communications (www.SpellCom.com).
A few important words from Lou Lucido – CASA’s Los Angeles chair and well known philanthropist while accepting his award: