Love Boat Gala at Balboa Bay Resort Raises $475K for Childhelp

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OC Chapter Childhelp President Pam Pharris, John O’Hurley Co Chair Jacquie Casey / photo by John Watkins

Several hundred guests boarded the Love Boat at the Balboa Bay Resort on October 1 to raise funds for the Orange County chapter of Childhelp, an organization that exists to meet the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of abused, neglected and at-risk children by focusing on advocacy, intervention, treatment, prevention, family resilience and community outreach.

Nautical attire was encouraged and many guests went overboard to adhere to the theme, especially the Men’s Committee, who were adorned in matching skipper outfits.

The evening set sail in the Balboa Bay Resort’s foyer with a silent auction, cocktails and champagne.

Guests then moved to the main regatta in the resort’s ballroom for a surf and turf dinner of filet mignon and sea bass, and the evening’s program.

Chapter President Pam Pharris and committee member Kristin James welcomed everyone along with the Men’s Committee Chairs, David James and Scott Amling.

National Chair Pattie Edwards and Benevolent Heart Awardee John O’Hurley / photo by John Watkins

During dinner, Patti Edwards presented the “Benevolent Heart Award” to John O ‘Hurley: actor, comedian, singer, author, television personality and longtime Childhelp Celebrity Ambassador and advocate.

“This award is presented to someone who truly loves the Childhelp mission,” said Edwards in her introduction to O’Hurley. “He is a man of many talents. If you enjoy comedy and pop culture, you know him as J. Peterman on ‘Seinfeld.’ If you are a game show fan, you loved him on ‘Family Feud’ or ‘To Tell the Truth.’ If you are a dog lover, John has hosted the National Dog Show for 20 years. In theater, you know him as a Broadway star with ‘Chicago’ and ‘Spamalot.’ In his spare time, he saves children’s lives.”

O’Hurley delivered a 10-minute acceptance speech that began as a witty observation on his career and ended with a riveting homage to Childhelp.

He noted that during his career, which spans 40 years, he has killed three TV series and guest starred on 50 TV shows—but not one is still on the air.

“During those 40 years, I have come to learn what a celebrity is—a celebrity is someone who gets to do something they have no business doing,” O’Hurley told the audience. “Every year I am reminded of that when they call me to host the National Dog Show. It gives me an opportunity to say some of the stupidest things I have ever said.”

O’Hurley recalled his first year hosting the dog show and watching a judge running her hands under the hair of an English sheepdog. O’Hurley asked his co-host to explain what she was doing. He responded that she is putting her hands on the dog to make sure the shoulders and hips align in proportion to what the perfect English sheep dog should be. “You can hide a really bad dog under a really good haircut,” he explained.

“You’re telling me,” retorted O’Hurley. “I went to junior prom.”

Table décor / photo by John Watkins

Then the judge started picking the hair up from the dog’s head. O’Hurley again asked what she was doing. The answer: “She is trying to find the eyes.” O’Hurley responded “if she lifts the hair and finds only one eye, she’s at the wrong end of the dog.”

The next day, the sports headline in a local paper read “The wrong end of the dog.”

O’Hurley went on to say he was “blessed to be here tonight, in the presence of people that care so much. My wife and I are blessed to have a perfect child. It’s not as though he never errs, he does many times, and often. And he is not a perfect student. Our son is not a great athlete.”

He then related a story of his son playing basketball. After the game O’Hurley told him that he should be more aggressive. His son’s response: “I am just a common boy who doesn’t do things like that.”

John O’Hurley addresses the gala guests / photo by Chris Trela

“My boy is anything but common,” said O’Hurley. “He is a perfect child because he posses three elements. The first is he understands the power of imagination. Second, he understands the importance of contemplation, of living in the present. Finally, he understands the notion of appreciation, the fact that he can see the inherent value and at the same time the apparent brokenness in a human being. The common boy has his sights set on living an extraordinary life.”

O’Hurley noted that when he and his wife were introduced to Childhedlp many years ago, he told the audience that “we were met with the sobering gut punch that all children are not perfect. We were introduced face to face with the compound apocalypse of child abuse. The cases of child abuse could fill dozens of football stadiums, the stories were nauseating.”

So every year when Childhelp calls him, he does whatever he can to assist Childhelp in its mission.

“Thank you for this honor—I support this journey as we put evil in its place.”

O’Hurley received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

An energetic auction followed, with guests bidding to win one of the eight live auction items. As an added bonus, O’Hurley auctioned off two tickets to the 2023 National Dog Show including a personal tour.

After the auction, guests danced to live music by King Salmon and the Junkyard Horns, and gambled at the casino in the foyer.

Co-Chairs Jacquie Casey and Gina Van Ocker organized Orange County Chapter’s 8th annual fall gala. The event raised over $475,000.00 for the children of Childhelp OC Chapter.

Silent auction / photo by Chris Trela

Generous Event Sponsors included Title Sponsors Jacquie and Michael Casey; Gold Donors Diane Garza and John Stremel, Kristin and David James; Silver Donors Tracy and Garret Abel, Joanne and Mike Abel, Patti and Jimmy Edwards, Patricia and Brent Ford, Laura and Gregg Smith and Karen and Glenn Taxman.

Childhelp is proud to report that for each dollar expended, over 85 cents are invested into serving the children in need of our program services, which include three Group Homes in Costa Mesa and the Childhelp Merv Griffin Village in Beaumont.

Visit https://www.childhelp.org/chapters/orange-county-chapter/ for more information.

Men’s Committee / photo by John Watkins
Women’s Committee / photo by John Watkins
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