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Jason, Nancy and Tim Gackstetter, Staff Sgt. Matthew Keil 

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Diamond Ball

Raising funds for the Wounded Veterans Initiative of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), the second annual Diamond Ball took place Nov. 8 at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. The soiree began with a lively cocktail hour, where assistance dogs in training roamed the terrace with their puppy raisers to socialize with attendees. Upon closing of the silent auction, guests were invited into the ballroom for a four-course dinner and emotional presentations from two veterans who received companion dogs from CCI. Bruce Brainerd, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, also shared his personal interest in the hotel’s dedication to animal-related causes; Brock, his CCI “change of career” dog who didn’t complete the organization’s testing procedures, joined him onstage for his heartfelt speech. A live auction and Diamond Drop Extravaganza opportunity drawing helped raise an estimated $200,000 for CCI’s initiative, which will allow the nonprofit to continue providing trained assistance dogs to disabled veterans. ( —A.H.


Candlelight Concert 2014 - Kimberly April (168)
Photo credit: Kimberly April 

Candlelight Concert

Segerstrom Center for the Arts transformed its stately Segerstrom Hall into an art deco ballroom for the 41st annual Candlelight Concert held Dec. 5. The glamorous affair raised nearly $1.9 million to support arts and education programs in Orange County. Chaired by board member Shanaz Langson and her husband, Jack, the event brought together 350 attendees for an evening that kicked off with live holiday music from the Sonora Elementary School handbell choir, a Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar and dessert truffle bar. After guests made their way down to the lower terraces, they enjoyed a multicourse dinner during the special presentation. A highlight of the evening, Chairman Lawrence Higby took the stage to announce that the center’s Founders Hall is being renamed in honor of Executive Vice President Judy Morr, a longtime employee who is responsible for bringing prestigious programming to the Segerstrom campus. Following dinner, Frank Sinatra Jr. (son of the famed Rat Pack actor and singer) entertained attendees with his 37-piece orchestra as they danced the night away. ( —A.H.


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Sip and Shuck

The second annual Champagne and oyster event at The Deck on Laguna Beach drew crowds again, this time in support of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center on Nov. 9. In partnership with The Bungalows at Pacific Edge Hotel and Driftwood Kitchen, the event raised approximately $10,000 for the nonprofit’s efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and release marine mammals stranded along the coast. The afternoon festivities brought together locals and visitors in a lively celebration featuring small bites from Executive Chef Rainer Schwarz, hand-shucked oysters from British Columbia and Washington state, and a variety of sparkling wines. In the VIP lounge, private bartenders served specialty sips such as the Sailor Jerry Backyard Lemonade; nonalcoholic drink options included Kean coffee to keep attendees warm while enjoying cool ocean breezes. Throughout the afternoon, musicians entertained guests as they sampled the abundant food and drink offerings. ( —A.H.


Belo Photo 3-Project Hope Alliance Interns selling Stance Socks to Benefit Homeless children in OC
Project Hope Alliance interns sold Stance Socks to Benefit Homeless children in Orange County. 

Belo Holiday Party Trunk Show

Laguna’s Belo Blow Dry Bar hosted a public holiday party for locals on Hospitality Night on Dec. 5, with a portion of proceeds benefitting Costa Mesa-based Project Hope Alliance. Owner Patricia Mussleman welcomed visitors to shop and support the charity that helps get homeless children in Orange County off the streets. Guests were treated to appetizers from 118 Degrees while a bar stocked with Champagne, wine and beer kept the libations flowing. Seven vendors, including La Weez Jewelry, Wendy Stillman Jewelry, Pashey Bella, Bohemian Bones, Red Fox, Stance Socks and Bagabond, participated in the event, which raised more than $1,500 for Project Hope Alliance. The group, citing Department of Education statistics, reports that there are approximately 28,000 homeless children in Orange County—the amount raised at the party is enough to end homelessness for one child, according to CEO Jennifer Friend. 
( —A.H.


New Year’s Eve at Montage Laguna Beach

VIPs rang in 2015 at Montage Laguna Beach’s New Year’s Eve bash, joined by the company’s founder and CEO Alan Fuerstman. More than 275 people gathered at the resort for this private, invitation-only celebration. The festivities included a disc jockey spinning lively beats, specialty cocktails and light bites such as oysters, sushi and other seafood. Meanwhile, party attendants popped the cork on 60 bottles of Veuve Clicquot yellow label so guests could raise a glass at midnight and welcome the new year. ( —A.H.

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