Festivities, fundraising and honorees begin to fill calendars

| March 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

Due to yet another rainy weekend in Los Angeles, the outdoor Civic Leadership Forum (CLF) brunch that the Junior League of Los Angeles (JLLA) hosted was moved indoors at the last minute, but that didn’t dim the spirits or significance of the occasion: to highlight and exchange information about the current foster care system and the issue of youth “aging out.” BOA Steakhouse on Sunset Boulevard was the location for March 11

Attendees socialized and enjoyed a buffet of Caesar salad, smoked maple bacon, egg casserole, creme de French toast, muffins and cookies while sipping virgin Bloody Marys and orange spritzes. Guests then listened to a poetry recitation from CLF Foster Youth Poetry Contest winner Breanna Lamountain-Raya, then a keynote address from Angelica Nwandu, founder of The Shade Room, an Instagram-based media empire celebrating Black culture and entertainment.

JOY C. WILLIAMS, current JLLA president, welcomes attendees to the brunch and forum.

PAST JLLA PRESIDENT Anika Jackson (right) moderates panel with The RightWay Foundation’s Franco Vega (left) and State AssemblyMember Isaac Bryan (center).

Past JLLA President Anika Jackson moderated a panel featuring foster and youth advocates, including State Assembly Member Isaac Bryan and Franco Vega, founder and CEO of The RightWay Foundation. The JLLA’s inaugural Civic Engagement Award was presented to CASA of Los Angeles and accepted by Charity Chandler-Cole, its CEO, followed by a closing performance by hip-hop artist Michael “Mikol” Jelks. All of the speakers had once been a part of the foster care system when young, and they shared personal stories of pain and uncertainty within the system, but then told of having been inspired by an advocate, mentor or friend who stepped forward to help. JLLA President Joy C. Williams emphasized the importance of this event, saying “JLLA’s mission is to develop the potential of women to take action and be a catalyst for community change. CLF is important and significant for the Junior League of Los Angeles because it empowers and provides attendees with tools to become advocates of change in their communities.”

ATTENDEES ENJOY BRUNCH before the JLLA Civic Leadership Forum. From left to right: Kendra Muecke, Quinn Fischman, Sommerly Simser, Krista Griffin and Giselle Fischman.

• • •

The famous California sun finally made a glorious appearance on March 18, when hundreds of people showed up to walk and run in support of the Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Research 10K Walk in Westlake Village. More than 75 of those walkers were friends supporting Abby’s Majestic Oaks, the walking team of Larchmont Village resident Abby Maxam,

ABBY MAXAM AND DAUGHTER MASON celebrate a strong finish after the Lustgarten 10K Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk.

who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2022. Usually not diagnosed until late stages, the purpose of the walk was to raise critical funds and awareness needed to transform pancreatic cancer into a curable disease. The Lustgarten Foundation is the nation’s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research, with 100 percent going to research.

Decked out in a purple wig and tutu, Abby and her friends and family raised more than $67,000 for the walk.

“My doctors said that 50 percent of beating this is the medication,” said Abby, “but the other 50 percent is having this community of incredibly supportive and loving and positive people, which is this whole group here.”

After the event, the exercisers ventured over to a hosted brunch at the Four Seasons Westlake Village, where they cooled their leg muscles and enjoyed scrambled eggs, fruit, pastries, muffins, coffee and juice. Proud to pound the pavement were Larchmont area locals Abby, Noel and Mason Maxam, Julie Hoegee, Kori Bernards, Pete Sepenuk, Matt and Ashley Kline, Natalya Hudis, Greg Roth, Howard Franklin, Guy Franklin and Anne Litt.

FRIENDS of Abby Maxam celebrate walking and fundraising at the finish line

• • •

What do Josh Groban, Corbin Bleu, Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, Jenna Elfman, Taran Killam, Zoey Deutch, Robert Vargas and Kehinde Wiley have in common? They all graduated from Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), the No. 1 arts high school in America five years running. On March 18, the historic Avalon Hollywood was the place to be for the sixth annual Future Artists Gala, where guests eagerly strolled through the landmark’s doors donning their shiny, sparkly best. Awaiting them inside was a hosted bar, passed canapés and plenty of goodwill. The evening’s host and LACHSA alum, Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical” and

LIVE AUCTION HOST Tony Barbieri (center), with wife Daryl (left) and Pete Sepenuk, cheer on the live performances at the Future Artists Gala.

Broadway’s “Kiss Me Kate”), kicked off the evening by showcasing the free, audition-only high school’s five academies: Cinematic Arts, Visual Arts, Dance, Theatre and Music. Windsor Square’s own Josh Groban received the LACHSA Luminary Award, while Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Channing Dungey was honored with the LACHSA Arts Advocate Award. Jimmy Kimmel Live! writer and live auction host Tony Barbieri (a former Larchmont Charter School parent) served up a hilarious dish of “making giving so funny you don’t realize you’re emptying your wallet,” followed by a rousing live performance of the hit song “The Walker” by LACHSA alum Michael Fitzpatrick, of Fitz and the Tantrums, that brought the entire crowd to its feet.

LACHSA alum Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums performs live with students from LACHSA’s music, theater and dance departments.

The live and silent auctions raised more than $500,000 to go toward funding the free public arts school. The party was nowhere near finished, though, as the crowd ascended the stairs for the after-party at Bardot, the Avalon’s speakeasy-esque Art Deco lounge. Spotted in the crowd of supporters were locals Elizabeth Dennehy and James Lancaster, Meg Gallagher, Lisa Picotte and David Kaufman, as well as celebrity guests Halle Berry and Diane Keaton.

• • •

More than 300 supporters of Big Sunday, one of the country’s top organizations for connecting people to volunteer opportunities, showed up in force for the eighth annual Big

BIG SUNDAY supporters gathered at Candela on La Brea Avenue.

Sunday Gala March 23 at Candela on La Brea Avenue. The much needed in-person return to (sorta) normal soiree was a jubilant way to kick off the organization’s plans for the upcoming year and to celebrate their volunteers, contributors and 43 sponsors.

Marc Canter accepts his award for his contributions to Big Sunday events for more than a decade.

The event honored Marc Canter of Canter’s Deli, Live Nation and Elizabeth Higgins Clark (actress, writer, advocate) and Emmy-winning writer and producer Lauren Pomerantz. Marc Canter and Canter’s Deli have been longtime supporters of Big Sunday, hosting Big Sunday’s celebrity rich Bingo n’ Bagels, and catering countless Big Sunday events, including Thanksgiving and the MLK Day clothing drive. Elizabeth Higgins Clark and Lauren Pomerantz stepped up during the COVID-19 shutdown with the Foot the Bill Fund, helping struggling Americans pay their bills to stay afloat. Live Nation was honored for more than a decade of support and for their generous Big Sunday auction donations to top name concerts such as Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney and Beyoncé.

HANCOCK PARK RESIDENT Leslie Maisel and friend Linda Perlman show their support for Big Sunday.

Thousands of dollars were raised by live auctioneer and comedian Gary Cannon, while Founder and Executive Director David Levinson entertained the crowd with personal stories and inspiration, saying that “everyone needs to be at the table, and if there’s not enough room, we get a bigger table.” Founded in 1999 with 300 volunteers, the organization now boasts 20 states, Australia, the U.K., and 1.75 million volunteer man-hours.

And now you’re in the Larchmont know!

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