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The Crowd: A gala for the love of children

March 20, 2014|By B.W. Cook
  • Childhelp devotee Dale San Filippo, Sir Bruno Serato, Children's Friend Award recipient, and Mary Allyn Dexter.
Childhelp devotee Dale San Filippo, Sir Bruno Serato,… (Ann Chatillon )

She sauntered up to the microphone, which was attached to a clear Plexiglas podium on the fashion runway. Her slinky, fitted, coral-colored silk pants under a matching tunic caught the attention of a very well-dressed audience.

Kristen James, president of the Orange County Chapter of Childhelp, welcomed the crowd to the 28th annual "For the Love of a Child" fashion show and luncheon sponsored in great part by South Coast Plaza.

For nearly three decades, Childhelp Orange County has matured and grown into one of the most active social-charitable groups on the Orange Coast. The credit for this success belongs to a group of die-hard women who have been front and center from the beginning.

Patti Edwards, first and foremost, has led the campaign on behalf of the abused, abandoned and neglected children served by Childhelp. Others in the ranks include Gina Van Ocker, Joy Whitlock-Estrada, Katherine Meredith, Christine Bren, Jennifer Kite, Diana Miner, Nancy Whitlock, Barbara Ganahl, Mary Allyn Dexter, Eileen Saul, Ginni Valley, Cleo Bluth, Debra Violette, Libby Werner, Joyce Simon, Nancy Cardin and major donor Jacquie Casey.

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Also among the super-dedicated are the co-chairs of the March 10 extravaganza held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa at Fashion Island. Michelle Langston and Pam Pharris were the duo in charge, working in partnership with Dexter and Dale San Filippo creating and presenting Childhelp's annual Children's Friend Award, which is bestowed on an Orange County resident whose actions have spoken louder than words in assisting children in crisis.

The 2014 honor was presented to Sir Bruno Serato, restaurateur and owner of the Anaheim White House. Serato has, over many years, quietly and consistently become a champion of children and families in trouble, living in motels or, worse, in cars or on the street. His crew prepares and serves some 1,000 meals daily, and in recent years, the charitable effort has expanded to helping "motel families" move into safe permanent residences.

Serato provides first and last month's rental deposits, amounting to several thousand dollars per family. Last year, Serato and donors helped more than 80 Orange County families find safe housing. The Childhelp crowd stood and cheered as San Filippo and Dexter presented the chef, attired in his dress culinary jacket, the handsome bronze Children's Friend statue for 2014.

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