Once held at the classic Ritz Restaurant in Fashion Island, which closed its doors several years ago, the annual “Christmas at the Ritz” fundraising luncheon has continued its holiday cheer at the Fashion Island Hotel.
Held Dec. 7, the event was presented by Women of Chapman, a women’s support group of Chapman University.
Over the past 33 years, the group has raised $8.5 million through the holiday event and is now completing a $1 million pledge to the Keck Center for Science and Engineering and the Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus, with commitments to Dodge College of Film and Media Arts’ Women of Chapman Distinguished Artist program and the university’s Provost Arts and Lecture Series.
Women of Chapman’s 33rd Annual “Christmas at The Ritz” began at check-in with greetings from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a quartet of Dickens carolers, a champagne and martini cocktail reception, and toy soldiers and snow sprites.
Once inside the ballroom, guests were dazzled by the décor that featured red linens decorated with fresh pine greenery and red and gold accents highlighting votives. As always, a colorful on-stage sleigh was packed with wrapped gifts.
Entertainment was provided by the Chapman University Tap Ensemble, with Women of Chapman President Anne Manassero making a surprise tapping cameo at the end of the performance.
“I never knew that 20 seconds would make me so nervous,” Manassero told the crowd of 300 supporters.
She also spoke about her excitement for the group’s latest contribution of $1 million to fund the Women of Chapman park at the Rinker Campus. Everyone that goes to that campus has to pass through the park, Manassero added.
“We are leaving our footprint on Chapman,” she said.
Manassero then introduced Chapman University President Daniele Struppa, who said “it’s always a pleasure to be here with so many elegant and generous people.”
Event Chair Kristin Martin Kristen also thanked the crowd, commenting that Christmas at the Ritz is one of her favorite events of the year.
“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,” she said. “It’s so magical.”
The event featured a fashion presentation by Grayse, Fashion Island, and a tasty four-course lunch that, as always, began with the famous Ritz egg, topped with caviar.
After lunch came a live auction, with the one-of-a-kind “The Ritz Dinner of Your Dreams” with former Ritz Restaurant Chef Arthur Shegog offering a dinner for 10 paired with wines, which was sold twice. There was also an opportunity drawing for a variety of prizes.
Net proceeds from the event was nearly $270,000.
Major underwriters (many from Newport Beach) included Sally Segertrom, Janet Curci, Whittier Trust with Arlo Sorensen, Julia and George Argyros, Shannon and George Argyros, Jr., and many others.