By Matt Fernandez | Signal Staff Writer
The Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children’s Cancer hosted its 25th annual Evening Under the Stars Gala Dinner and Charity Auction Saturday at the Valencia Country Club, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the fight against pediatric cancer and to provide help to families and children battling the disease.
About 600 guests and 200 volunteers attended the fundraiser, which featured silent and live auctions, a reverse raffle, dancing and music from Kenny Cetera’s Chicago Experience, led by the brother of former Chicago frontman Peter Cetera.
Notable among the evening’s attendees were 15 children who are undergoing or have completed cancer treatment, including two families who also spoke about their experiences with pediatric cancer.
“I’ve been going to this event for the past four years and this year’s attendance was so great that we’re running out of places to host that many people in Santa Clarita,” said gala committee member Nick Ventura.
“The event is just getting more beautiful every year,” Ventura said. “Everyone is bound to be exposed to cancer in their lifetime and in most cases their exposure is related to older adults and less for children. But that is multiplied so much more when it comes to a child with cancer that hasn’t yet experienced life and had the same opportunities to live as adults. Hearing the families speak is always particularly profound.”
The foundation’s Executive Director Gillian Stone said the fundraiser raised approximately $400,000, of which $10,500 was raised through the auctions. Ticket prices started at $200 and raffle tickets were $100 each.
Among the items offered at the event for auction were diamond jewelry, L.A. Kings and Lakers luxury suites and a Twenty One Pilots concert trip including airfare and a hotel stay. The prize for the reverse raffle was a $5,000 vacation package offered by Princess Cruises.
“It was a moving experience because we don’t normally get to speak to families who are going through the same thing that we are,” said gala attendee Danyelle Paradis-Schanfarber, whose 4-year-old son has undergone treatments for leukemia. “We were actually seated at a table with a family who has a little girl the same age as our son that’s going through the same kind of cancer as our son. It was really great to be able to talk with that family and see the kids play together.”