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The Crowd: Jerry Lewis helps raise significant funds

June 10, 2010|B.W. Cook

"My father, who was the funniest man I ever knew, told me early in my career to always leave my audience with something warm and meaningful at the end of the show," said comedic legend Jerry Lewis, fronting the "Gift of Hope" annual gala Saturday night at the Island Hotel, in Newport Beach.

He continued, "So permit me to leave you with this thought. A friend in need…is a pest."

The audience roared. It was the conclusion of a half hour of impromptu, non-stop laughter, courtesy of a man who, for more than half a century, has done at least two amazing things in life: kept the world laughing hysterically at his antics and, more significantly, as the voice of hope for the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., led the charge by raising $2.45 billion in search of a cure.

This year's event honored the association's Man of the Year, Art Kazarian, the "Godfather of Green." Kazarian has built a career in the waste recycling business, which has earned him a national reputation. Married to his wife, Kathleen, in 1958, he is the father of three sons, Gary, Kory and Kris.

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Family and friends turned out in full force to honor Kazarian, selling out the ballroom at The Island Hotel. The evening had the feel of old Las Vegas meets Beverly Hills and a little bit of New York thrown in for good measure. Handsome gents in black tie and gorgeous gals in floor-length gowns came together to raise major bucks for the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.

In the middle of the program, Frank Di Bella, the association's Gift of Hope chairman, asked the crowd if it would be willing to donate money to send youngsters suffering from muscular dystrophy to summer camp. Since its inception in 1955, the association's summer camp program has allowed more than 4,000 children to have a summer camp experience at some 90 camps nationwide. The association picks up the $800 tuition for each camper.

Di Bella asked the crowd to raise its hands and sponsor a camper. He told those in attendance that the major benefactor of the evening, S. Paul Musco and his charming wife, Marybelle, would match donations to a most generous $50,000. Within seconds, hands were raised and voices were shouting donations across The Island Ballroom — not just sponsoring one child, but many gave enough money to send two, four, six, eight, 10 and even 20 children to summer camp.

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