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Michele Hunter, Director of Operations & Animal Care at PMMC and Keith Matassa, Executive Director of PMMC


As one of Laguna’s longest-running philanthropic organizations, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) has aided sick and injured pinnipeds in the Orange County area since 1971. On the evening of Sept. 28, nearly 300 supporters gathered under the stars at The Ranch at Laguna Beach to raise funds for the cause. The 2014 Marine Mammal Gala kicked off as guests mingled during a cocktail hour. After browsing through 88 silent auction items, they settled at tables where they were served dinner and greeted by Keith Matassa, the center’s executive director. Later in the evening, attendees cheered as center co-founder John Cunningham announced that longtime PMMC supporter Dorothy Palmer would be honored as Philanthropist of the Year. Though Dorothy wasn’t expected to attend the event, she arrived to a standing ovation shortly after her award was announced, marking the emotional highlight of the night. This energy extended to the live auction, and guests were quick to raise their paddles for items such as a private chef’s dinner for 10 at Studio at Montage Laguna Beach and trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. More than $190,000 was raised—a record amount—with all proceeds going toward rehabilitation and education efforts at the center. ( —B.B.


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Firebrand Media’s dodgeball team


In a throwback to a favorite grade school game, droves of Lagunans took to the dodgeball courts Oct. 15, raising $10,000 for SchoolPower, a nonprofit that supports local public schools. Crowds cheered as 66 teams competed in the fifth annual tournament at Laguna Beach High School, with more than 500 players donning creative outfits, from superhero shirts to lumberjack attire complete with fake beards. Competition was fierce as players lobbed large rubber balls at opposing team members (to hit and thus eliminate them from the match). Champions in each age bracket won $500 to give to a Laguna teacher or school program of their choice. In the combined adult and high school division, the first-place El Morro Elementary School teachers’ team received a golden skull trophy and plans to use its prize money to buy books for classrooms. In the sixth- through eighth-grade division, Animal Kingdom emerged victorious while the Superdodgers swept the fourth- and fifth-grade category. ( —S.S.


The volunteers with co-founder Carmen Rey (center), Jane Hammonds, Lan Zentil, Staci Holbrook, Andrea Schoembs, Megan Hilliard and Paula Lopes
Jane Hammonds, Lan Zentil, Staci Holbrook, Carmen Rey, Andrea Schoembs, Megan Hilliard, Paula Lopes


On Oct. 3, nearly 200 guests gathered at The Ranch at Laguna Beach for the Indian Summer Gala supporting Wheels 4 Life, Hans and Carmen Rey’s charity organization that donates bicycles to individuals in developing countries. The event, which raised more than $54,000, was replete with wine, food and live music (courtesy of the band Common Sense). Attendees witnessed the premiere of “Riding Out of Poverty,” the new Wheels 4 Life film that chronicles Hans and Carmen’s 2013 journey to Kenya and Uganda. Though an enjoyable and entertaining evening, the true meaning of the event was not lost on guests, who showed their generosity when bidding on live auction items such as art, an Italian vacation and an electric beach cruiser—enough to donate more than 500 bikes to families in need. ( —B.B.


Brent Schindele, Michelle Bendetti, Erika Schindele, Ann Wareham, Amberly Rosen, Brendan Willing-James
Brent Schindele, Michelle Bendetti, Erika Schindele, Ann Wareham, Amberly Rosen, Brendan Willing James


A Night at the Cocoanut Grove, a supper club show celebrating the 1930s-1950s, raised a record $196,500 for the 94-year-old Laguna Playhouse, the oldest continuously operating theater west of the Mississippi River. Many of the 320 attendees dressed in period attire for this Nov. 1 Big Band Gala at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. Entering the ballroom was like stepping back in time with 300 palm fronds decorating the space, crooner Johnny Holiday singing tunes from the era with his 10-piece band, and special appearances by The Satin Dollz pinup dancers. Also performing during the dinner were violinist Amberly Rosen and Brent and Erika Schindele, as well as the playhouse’s Youth Theatre cast presenting “Pinkalicious.” Before the main event, VIP ticket holders and sponsors enjoyed a special speakeasy complete with a cigar lounge and signature cocktails made with Nolet Spirits, a company based in Aliso Viejo. Complimentary drinks continued into the cocktail reception, where an ice luge drew crowds. Attendees mingled while placing bids on an array of silent auction items, including a walk-on role in the playhouse’s 2015 summer musical. A live auction followed later in the evening and, once enough money was raised for the cause, attendees kicked up their heels on the dance floor late into the night. ( —S.S.

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