Friday, October 16, 2009

For The Love Of Children

If you want a shot of energy, sit next to philanthropist and businesswoman Sandy Segerstrom Daniels for lunch, as I did today at Scott's Grill, in the shadow of Costa Mesa, California's mighty South Coast Plaza. We lucky Orange Countians (including my other lunch companion, former County Supervisor Tom Wilson) were serving as judges for "Season of Caring presents the Possible Dream," the annual fundraising drive by the Orange County Register and South Coast Plaza on behalf of the county's charities benefiting children in need.

Sandy launched the Festival of Children Foundation in 2002 and serves as its executive director. As a leading supporter of the Register-South Coast Plaza tie-in (carefully nurtured by my longtime colleague Noah McMahon, a trustee of St. John's School, shown here riding around in circles to finish off last year's drive), Sandy graciously presided over today's working lunch along with the ever-resourceful Jackie Saragueta, who oversees the Register's own annual holiday drive, Season of Caring. It's raised over $6 million for local charities since former Register publisher N. Christian Anderson (my St. John's Church brother) launched it in 1999.

Since we judges gathered this time last year, Daniels' passion for helping non-profits that care for children has gone national. Earlier this year, former Supervisor Wilson, now handling the Festival of Children Foundation's governmental relations, helped Sandy persuade Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina to join with California's Diane Feinstein and their opposite numbers in the House to designate September as National Child Awareness Month to draw further attention to children's charities. The Daniels-Wilson team is now getting to work persuading Orange County's cities to follow suit, and the timing couldn't be better. These charities need and deserve all the attention they can get as kids are whipsawed between crisis unemployment levels and government's dwindling resources.

If children unite us, so does music. Another member of Sandy Daniels' team is Cassady Taylor, Festival of Children's director of marketing and public relations. He's named after Neal Cassady, a seminal Beat Generation figure who appears under another name in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Cassady's father, John Taylor (no relation, except in a larger sense), was an audio technician for the Grateful Dead, which in John's day was known for having the finest sound system every designed for a rock and roll band.

To make all this perfectly clear to any Republican Deadheads who may still be reading, Cassady is not named for the Bob Weir-John Perry Barlow song "Cassidy," which appears on Weir's 1972 album, "Ace" -- though Weir and Barlow are said to have had Neal in mind along with another Cassidy, daughter of a band archivist. And to end up, as we so often do, with politics, Cassady Taylor's stepfather is a son of President Nixon's late friend and former advance man, Jack Drown, and his wife and Mrs. Nixon's best friend, the late Helene Drown.

So like I said: Donate to "Season of Caring Presents the Possible Dream"!

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