Newport Beach Residents Honored at 35th Annual National Philanthropy Day OC

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NPD Founder Doug Freeman, who received the 35th Anniversary Founders Award, Co-Chairs Elizabeth Kurila and Joan McBride, Amy Sfreddo, representing Presenting Sponsor OCBJ. Photo by Tony Lattimore

In 1986, Orange County businessman and philanthropist Doug Freeman convinced President Ronald Reagan to establish National Philanthropy Day to thank those in the community who are the “ultimate givers.”

In November, 2020, National Philanthropy Day celebrated its 35th anniversary with the theme of “Bringing Philanthropy Home.”

Each year more than 130 Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) chapters throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada honor the philanthropic efforts of individuals, businesses and groups. Freeman, who continues to participate, says of AFP, “I am so grateful that AFP took on the responsibility early on of sponsoring this effort all these years.”

Like most events in 2020, November’s National Philanthropy Day luncheon was held virtually.

Co-Chairs Elizabeth Kurila and Joan McBride welcomed everyone, with Kurila quipping, “for the first time in our history we are not serving chicken for lunch,” with a gentle nod to the virtual, pre-taped program. The duo thanked this year’s honorees, past honorees, event sponsors, and their committee.

Along with the co-chairs, others overseeing the virtual effort included program co-chairs Kathy Ruvolo and Mitch Spann, Producer/Director Bill Ennis, and Special Segments Producer/Editor PBS So-Cal’s Maria Hall-Brown, who also served as returning host. Also acknowledged were the Judging Chairs Janet Ray and John Christensen for overseeing the judging committee and its selection of the outstanding honorees. Honorary Chairs were Sue & Ralph Stern, the 2019 Legacy Award honorees.

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Ilona Martin, center, with Co-Chairs Joan McBride, left, and Elizabeth Kurila, right. Photo by Carla Rhea

The National Philanthropy Day Song was performed by student singers and musicians from OC Music & Dance, a performing arts school in Irvine. The heartwarming song, titled “Now More Than Ever,” was composed by the late Marvin Hamlisch at the behest of Freeman many years ago.

Viewers were delighted with video snipits of past honorees receiving their awards, among them Donald Bren, Elizabeth & Tom Tierney, Willa Dean & William Lyon, Ed Arnold, Marion Knott and Elizabeth & John Stahr.

Considered the most important philanthropic recognition in Orange County, with more than 1,000 honorees since its inception, the 2020 honorees included three Newport Beach residents and one Newport Beach Organization:

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser: Ilona Martin. Following a successful career in fashion manufacturing, Ilona Martin’s life changed direction after Hoag Hospital saved her life from ovarian cancer and volunteering became her passion. She has lent her time and fundraising acumen to Hoag Hospital, Laguna Playhouse and Laguna College of Art and Design. Martin stated her life philosophy during the event, saying, “I learned hands up, hard work and reward is the way to success in life and fundraising with collaboration, relationships and gratefulness.”

Outstanding Philanthropist Nella Webster O’Grady with presenter Daniele Struppa, Chapman University President. Photo by Carla Rhea

Outstanding Philanthropist: Nella Webster O’Grady. Observing elderly customers victimized by poor financial decisions in the banking industry prompted Nella Webster O’Grady to join the trust industry, where she has since served in senior management positions. Throughout her career, she has given her time and talents to numerous nonprofit organizations, including Girl Scouts of Orange County, Orange County United Way, Mission Plasticos, WHW, and Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business. She considers her nonprofit work her greatest joy, and told everyone she adheres to the Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap; If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”

Outstanding Youth: Karina Tarsadia. This 16-year-old Sage Hill High School sophomore was inspired through service trips to Cambodia, India and Africa, to help others. In 2019, she created, with nonprofit partners, Karina’s Backpack Project, which so far has provided thousands of backpacks with school supplies, groceries, and food to low-income families. AFP OC President Elect Michele Bignardi presented Karina with a $2,500 check to be designated to a charity of her choice. She chose the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast. She was also presented a $1,000 check from the AFP-OC Scholarship Fund for her continuing development and education.

NPD-OC President Elect Michele Bignardi presented Outstanding Youth award to Karina Tarsadia. Photo by Tony Lattimore

Outstanding Philanthropic Group: OCCares. Katherine Ahn Wallace’s mission, as OCCares founder and board chair, is to grow compassionate, philanthropic social entrepreneurs through Project Y, a high school club-based, student-driven youth social entrepreneurship program with curriculum supplanted by UC Irvine and Pepperdine University. OCCares hosts fundraisers for needy nonprofits and provides volunteer opportunities for students to fulfill service-learning credits at their schools.

Wyland, the internationally-recognized artist/conservationist whose main gallery is based in Laguna Beach, was the event’s special guest. In summing up his giving philosophy, he stated, “Giving is the best thing on the planet!”

All the honorees were presented a beautifully crafted hand-blown glass heart sculpture, created by master glassblower John Barber of Laguna Beach.

The effort netted $93,911 for the support of the ethical advancement of philanthropy in the community by the Orange County Chapter of AFP.

Sponsors included: 35th Anniversary Sponsor Ling and Charlie Zhang, City of Hope, Elizabeth & Tom Tierney, Chapman University, FivePoint Holdings LLC, Hoag Hospital Foundation, loanDepot, Simon Scholars /Simon Foundation, Sue & Ralph Stern, UCI Foundation, Cornerstone Communications, Edwards Lifesciences, Laguna College of Art + Design, Miracle Mile Advisors, Orange County Community Foundation, Providence, Janet & James “Walkie” Ray, Cal State Fullerton, Donnie Crevier, Mary & Patrick Dirk, Illumination Foundation, Joy of Sharing Foundation, Keith & Judy Swayne Family Foundation, The Wooden Floor, and UCP of Orange County.

For further information on the event, visit


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