CASA Celebration dazzles with Studio 54-themed party raising more than $1.114 million for youth in foster care

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County hosted their annual CASA Celebration on Friday, May 17, at the stunning Pendry Newport Beach. The event drew 270 dedicated supporters, united in their mission to connect abused, abandoned and neglected children in Orange County with trained volunteer advocates. This year’s gala surpassed all expectations, netting more than $1,114,000 and exceeding budget goals.

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Photos by John Watkins

(L-R) CASA Celebration Co-chairs Karen Jordan and Jassel Kaye

The enchanting evening was expertly chaired by two long-standing CASA supporters and board members, Karen Jordan and Jassel Kaye. Guests were welcomed to a vibrant, glittering cocktail reception that featured a silent auction with 34 exquisite items. The live auction, highlighted by exclusive jewelry sponsor Lugano Diamonds, offered exceptional experiences, including a seven-night luxury getaway to New York City, complete with a helicopter ride to the Hamptons for VIP access to the Hampton Classic Horse Show and an exclusive dinner.

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(L-R) Lucy Donahue, Regina Oswald, Stephanie Andrea, CASA CEO Regan Dean Phillips and Lauren Wong

Upon entering the ballroom, guests were transported to the glamorous world of disco, thanks to the dazzling transformation by Elite OC Productions. CASA CEO Regan Dean Phillips delivered a heartfelt speech, emphasizing the critical importance of meaningful connections in a child’s life and the pivotal role CASA volunteers play when a child’s family cannot provide that support. The Celebration Studio 24 illuminated the remarkable contributions of individuals and corporations whose unwavering support is essential to CASA’s services.

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(L-R) President & CEO of STARK Todd Vande Hei (Outstanding Corporation honoree) with Mark Vande Hei

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(L-R) Judge Gail Andler (Ret.) (Children’s Champion honoree) and Steve Andler

This year, CASA honored CEO and President of STARK Todd Vande Hei with the Outstanding Corporation award and Judge Gail Andler (Ret.) with the Children’s Champion award. Both awards recognize exceptional dedication and support for CASA’s mission. Honorees shared personal stories that underscored the power of family and meaningful connections, and their profound impact on shaping young lives. Vande Hei and Andler, both CASA board members, were celebrated for their extraordinary commitment to advocating for vulnerable children in the community.

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(L-R) Mike Cahill, Pat Cahill (Advocate of the Year), Jim Cahill, Michael Cahill and Heather Morrow

Among the highlights of the evening’s events, CASA’s longest serving volunteer, Pat Cahill, was honored as this year’s Advocate of the Year. Introduced by the Presiding Judge of Orange County Juvenile Court, Judge Craig Arthur, Cahill shared stories from her 28 years of experience as a volunteer. “I could talk to you all night about all the children I was blessed to work with over the past 28 years, but I will leave you with this: All these children need someone to provide consistency in their lives. I have witnessed how social workers, attorneys, staff and therapists go in and out of their lives, but their CASA is always there, walking alongside them and being their rock. My role has also been to teach them to trust again. I let the staff have control of the rules; I just gave them attention and the time to be a child. My kiddos learn from me: where you go, I go because I am your Velcro.” Cahill was surprised on stage by one of her former CASA youth at the conclusion of her speech.

Auctioneer Chuck Dukas revved up the crowd for the annual Fund the Mission paddle raise which raised more than $500,000 with donations from event guests ranging from $100 to $100,000.

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(L-R) Jennifer Gonzales Oxen, Melissa Rohani and Sarah Minakary

This year’s Sapphire Sponsors were Lucy Donahue; Karen Jordan; Jassel and Michael Kaye; Manly, Stewart and Finaldi; Pintas & Mullins Law Firm; Rohani Family Foundation and Sweet James Accident Attorneys. Underwriters included Lugano Diamonds as Official Jewelry Sponsor; Larry and Wendy Tenebaum as Cocktail Reception Sponsor; Hodge & Schuyler Family Foundation as Main Dining Room Floral Sponsor; Los Defensores as the Mobile Bidding Sponsor; CNC Engineering as the Invitation Sponsor; Returning Home Foundation as Printing Sponsor; Mike and Wendy Wiley as Bar Sponsor; MaxMara South Coast Plaza as Wine Sponsor; European Collectables as Automotive Showcase Sponsor and Paul Fenner Floral Design as Cocktail Floral Sponsor.

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(L-R) Lourdes Nark, John Nye and Linda Young

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1985, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County (CASA OC) provides a powerful voice and a meaningful connection for children who have experienced abuse, neglect and abandonment. CASA volunteers are a crucial intervention to help ensure safety, speed up permanent placement, help children and youth thrive in school and support positive health outcomes. A CASA volunteer is often the only consistent adult in a child or youth’s life who is not paid to support and advocate for them. The CEO of CASA OC since 2017 is Regan Dean Phillips, Esq., MSW and Chair of the Board of Directors is Michael Wong, President & CEO, Genea. CASA is a private, nonprofit organization supported by individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies. It is a member of the National CASA/GAL Association for Children. Visit www.casaoc.org to learn more.


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