2019 Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon



Matthew Wadlinger

Chief Communications Officer



Santa Ana, Calif. (December 17, 2019) – Friends of CASA, a membership auxiliary of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County, hosted its annual Holiday Luncheon & Fashion Show on Wednesday, December 11, at The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. The Luncheon and Fashion Show that began as a Holiday Tea 24 years ago has brought in over 4.5 million dollars since 1995. This year’s Luncheon had a record breaking net for the sixth year in a row – with $481,809* that will go directly to supporting CASA’s mission of providing a powerful voice and a meaningful connection for children who have experienced abuse, neglect and abandonment.

The Luncheon was chaired by Jennifer Gonzales Oxen, Sandi Marino and Debbie Masek, who were assisted by a team of over 85 members from the Friends of CASA (FOCASA) auxiliary group, which is led by FOCASA President, Lori Jackson. Five hundred and forty six guests filled the halls and decks outside of the ballroom to bid on 208 auction packages during the champagne reception. Guests were able to fulfill a foster child’s wish through ornaments placed on the “Starfish Wish Trees”, featuring 224 different wishes from the children in the CASA program which included items like dance and cooking classes, art supplies, summer camps and a laptop computer for a college bound young adult. For the third year in a row the trees were sponsored and beautifully decorated by Barclay Butera Interiors.

The reception area and ballroom at the Monarch Beach Resort were exquisitely decorated with holiday touches that sparkled in hues of pink and dark green and styled by Elite OC Productions. This year’s fashion show was presented by Kate Spade New York and South Coast Plaza and produced by Deborah Keillor. The event was hosted by former NFL Quarterback, Mark Sanchez who greeted guests at the start of the program with CASA CEO, Regan Phillips, before walking the runway with his 2 year old son. Kate Spade New York showed 24 beautiful looks from their Summer 2020 collection, and guests at the Luncheon were among the first people to ever see the collection.

This year’s keynote speaker was CASA volunteer, Sarah Randall. Sarah shared her story of becoming a CASA over ten years ago and working with five youth in the foster care system. “It is so gratifying to tell you that not only did Enrique graduate from high school but he is the first in his family to go to college. He is at Golden West College and wants to transfer to UCI. He has a job. He is responsible, conscientious and makes his own decisions. He is confident, mature and can advocate for himself. I am so proud of him.” Sarah continued with her speech, “I want to thank you on Enrique’s behalf and on behalf of all of our foster youth. Enrique’s story is just one story. There are thousands. Our children in foster care just need one person who supports them and sees them for the unique individual they are. The CASA model works because research shows that children who have experienced trauma and feel helpless and afraid just need one consistent person in their lives to believe in them and care about them. This relationship helps to foster resilience and empowers healing in the children by communicating to them that they matter and are not alone. CASAs are this person.” Sarah was then surprised on stage by Enrique, who was holding a bouquet of flowers and gave her a hug that was later joined in by CASA CEO, Regan Phillips and Mark Sanchez.

The opportunity drawing was provided by Lugano Diamonds who generously donated Oval Hoop Earrings (18K White Gold, .97 carats round VS collection White Diamonds) and a White Diamond Bangle (18L 4.04 carats VS collections White Diamonds). Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon Committee Member, Shannon Smaldino was the lucky winner.

The Diamond Starfish Sponsor for this year’s event is the Official Jewelry Sponsor, Lugano Diamonds. Ruby Starfish Sponsors included Carol and John Demorest & Susie and George Wood, New American Funding & Valia Properties & Mara Murray, The 3 J’s – Joanna, Jamie and Jill, and Lucy Donahue.

Friends of CASA are committed to raising funds for CASA of Orange County’s mentor-advocate program for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.  Through the annual Holiday Luncheon, the Friends of CASA raise awareness of the CASA program, recruiting volunteers and long-term donors to CASA. This year’s Executive Committee of the Holiday Luncheon was comprised by the following Friends of CASA members: Kimberly DeLamar Matties, Michelle Fisher, Cathy Fitzpatrick, Maggie Flornes, Tiffanie Foster, Jennifer Hanlon, Annette Hellmich, Lori Jackson, Joanna James, Nicole Joseph, Patty Juarez, Deborah Keillor, Debra Klein, Mei Li, Colleen Masterson, Sarah Minakary, Meldie Moore, Valerie Ramsay, Melissa Rohani, Stefanie Stamires, Sara Van Dusen, Janine Wald and Marjie Zethraus.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate for and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, CASA provides a powerful voice and a meaningful connection for children who have experienced abuse, neglect and abandonment. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. Please visit casaoc.org to learn more.

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*an earlier version of this press release was published on 12/17/2019 with a net total of $475k, which has since been revised to $481k+ (01/03/2020)

Event Chairs: Debbie Masek, Sandi Marino, Jennifer Gonzales Oxen
Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon Executive Committee Members

Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon All Committee Members
Friends of CASA President, Lori Jackson
Keynote Speaker + CASA volunteer, Sarah Randall
Master of Ceremonies, Mark Sanchez and CASA-OC CEO, Regan Phillips
Selena Aguirre and CASA volunteer, Helen Benziger

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