Annual Gala brings in money for scholarships

ALL SMILES (Nicole Bullard)

Nicole Bullard

The 12th annual gala presented by Saddleback Foundation last Saturday was a “glamorous night of stars” with it’s luxurious Hollywood theme and was hosted by Donna Varner, the Foundation’s president.

The gala was held in the gymnasium, which was transformed into a completely different scene with casino tables in the corners and over 30 tables spread out across the gym. A silent auction helped raise money for scholarships.

“It takes about a year to get everything going,” Varner said about preparing the annual gala, “and the money is for scholarships and programs. This year we’re hoping for $100,000.”

In the very front of the gym, the prizes were written down on tables for guests to make bids and socialize. The cost of the prices are based on how high the bidders are willing to raise their bids.

One of the silent auction prizes included a KSBR package Bash 2012 which includes two gold tickets to the Bash, two hats, two T-shirts, two wine glasses and one KSBR CD. A second prize consisted of a cruise on the San Francisco Bay, on the Tiara 52 “Wingman” for eight, including airfare and a one night stay at the San Francisco Hilton for two.

The casino tables had “casino dollars” where a guest could win prize tickets for three main prizes including a three day and two night midweek stay at Las Vegas, a wine basket and gift certificates.

Many faculty members, instructors, foundation members and students attended the gala and contributed to the cordial and crowded atmosphere.

“I’m having a wonderful time,” said Robert Farnsworth, department chairman of horticulture and landscape design.

Students from the culinary arts department provided the passed hors d’oeuvres and the desserts for 300 people. The hors d’oeuvres comprised of blackened filet with red onion marmalade on crostini, edamame hummus on cucumber rounds with corn salsa and many more.

The entree, salad and sides were provided by independent caterer Chef Molly Kruger, a graduate of New York’s Culinary Institute of America. Kruger established her catering business in 1995 after beginning her career in San Francisco, according to her website,

The desserts were dished out as a trio plate, with a red velvet petit fours with dark chocolate ganache and fluer de sel brittle, a lemon panna cotta with raspberry couli and pistachio lace cookie and a napolean with pastry cream and fruit compote.

Many students contributed to the quality of the atmosphere and decorations of the gala.

The floral vase centerpieces were provided by the interior design department for every table in the gym.

Three students created the decorations, including painting the stage background and gala lighting. Kat Bausch, 21, technical theater, assisted with scenic painting, along with Heather McLain, 19, technical theater. Zach Lapinski, 20, technical theater, handled lighting design as well as creation the decorations for the gala.

The Saddleback Alumnus of the Year, Nico Melendez, was acclaimed at the gala and gave a brief speech about his life and how graduating Saddleback helped boost his future.

After completing his general education at Saddleback, Melendez transferred to Chaminade University and earned a bachelor’s degree in historical and political studies. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving 10 years in active duty all over the globe as a journalist and public affairs officer. He continues to serve today as an active naval reserve unit.

He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University and is currently a broadcaster and communicator for the Transportation Security Administration.

To conclude the event, the Rodrigo Moreno Quartet performed with Amanda Harris as vocalist, Spencer Wiles on alto sax, Tristan Orr on guitar, Rodrigo Moreno on bass and Jesse Conlee played the drums.

The gala recognized Gold sponsors Cox Communications, Mercedes-Benz of Laguna Niguel, President Burnett and South County Bank. The Silver sponsors are AT&T Services, Inc., Best, Best & Kreiger, LLP, Capata & Company, CPA, Follett Higher Education Group, Neudesic, Inc. and Schools First Federal Credit Union.

Gala honorees included Dorothy Marie Lowry who donated $2,200,000, The Bernard Osher Foundation donated $794,000, Linda Richardson Rice donated $140,000, Associated Student Government donated $89,000 and Kia Motors donated $76,000.