Seeing Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man walk around and take pictures with guests sounds like the description of a scene from Comic-Con, but this was actually the scene at Circle of Hope’s Vine2Wine fundraiser held at Scorpion Santa Clarita on Saturday.
Aside from the building’s occupation by The Empire’s 501st legion – an international Star Wars cosplaying organization – and the presence of superheroes, the affair was a formal one. Guests dressed formally, hors d’oeuvres were served by bow-tied staff, the food was immaculately presented and prepared, and guests were able to sample some of the finest wines the area has to offer.
Spectacle aside, the event was organized to raise funds for Circle of Hope – a Santa Clarita-based nonprofit that provides financial and therapeutic assistance for those with cancer in the area.
Laura Kirchhoff, executive director for Circle of Hope, said costs related to cancer are expensive and that because of this, large-scale fundraisers, such as the one on Saturday, are necessary to serve those in the community.
“The entire focus, the entire time on this [event] is to raise the funds that Circle of Hope needs to do the work that we do in this community,” said Kirchhoff. “It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars because we pay for cancer medical bills for those that are unable to afford their chemotherapy, the radiation, their cancer surgery, their medications. So it takes a lot to [do] that and this is how we make the funds to do that.”
Kirchhoff said that everything at the event, from the gourmet food and more than 30 wineries to sample from, to the ambience and costumed characters, was there to lure in sponsors and raise funds so people with cancer never have to worry about having to pay for what they need.
“We appreciate our sponsors, we appreciate everybody attending this event. It’s because of the support of our community that we are able to serve our community,” said Kirchhoff. “Everything we do, whether it’s the financial support, or [the] 30 different wellness therapies that are completely free of charge for those with cancer, nobody pays a dime in this community.”
Kirchhoff said planning an event with this grandeur and scale starts about a year in advance and that more than 70 volunteers helped bring it to fruition.
“We always strive to do something totally different outside the box,” said Kirchhoff. “I was trying to think, ‘Where are we going next?’ And I’ve already got things planned for next year that will outdo this. So it’s just a year-round process… we’ve got over 70 volunteers here today, support staff, it takes a village.”
In addition to entrance price and sponsors, a live and silent auction were held for attendees to bid on items such as gift baskets and special events.
Bruce Fortine and Gloria Mercado-Fortine said they were there to support Circle of Hope because they believe in its cause. Gloria, a cancer survivor herself, said supporting Circle of Hope and fighting cancer is personal.
“Fighting cancer has always been a passion of ours since I think everybody’s lost somebody to cancer. I’m a survivor of cancer and so this program… it just speaks to us,” said Mercado-Fortine. “It’s needed because the support that they give to cancer patients and their families is phenomenal. [There’s] real, dark moments when you’re faced with cancer, so you need as much support [as possible].”
“This is one of the premier organizations of Santa Clarita,” said Bruce. “They do such wonderful work for people with cancer.”