First published in the May 21 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Tuscany region of central Italy is widely considered to be one of the most enchanting places on Earth. Renowned for its landscapes, history and influence on arts and culture, it is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.
Known amongst Italians as “a nation within a nation,” Tuscany is, perhaps, best known around the world for its production of wines.
This past week, the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley provided more than 340 supporters a taste of Tuscany and its beloved import as it presented its annual fundraising gala under the theme “Sip, Sip, Soiree! An Evening in Tuscany.”
Held at Lakeside Golf Club, the event, which provided attendees with an evening of wine tasting, dinner, entertainment and live and silent auctions, honored Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger as well as Adrian Casillas, who has been named the club’s 2022 Youth of the Year.
Shanna Warren, who serves as CEO of the local Boys and Girls Club, said she and her board of directors were extremely proud to be recognizing this year’s honorees.
“Supervisor Barger has been a huge supporter of ours throughout the pandemic,” Warren said. “So many childcare providers in our area had closed their operations, but we made the decision to stay open. Because of that, we were very concerned about abiding by the safety protocols which were seemingly changing on a weekly basis. The supervisor and her office were great in communicating with us on a regular basis and answering all our questions. We really formed a great partnership. In fact, they were so happy with the way we worked together they actually referred other local nonprofits to us for guidance.”
Calling Barger “a huge advocate for youth,” Warren said that she and her board were especially grateful for the $250,000 in county funding the supervisor secured for the campaign to fund the organization’s new facilities.
“She and her staff also donated toys, clothing and backpacks to us for our back-to-school event, so it was our honor to recognize her for all she and her team have done for us over the past few years,” Warren said.
As for Casillas, a 15-year-old club member who is a sophomore at Burbank High School, Warren called him “a wonderful kid,” who represents everything Boys and Girls clubs are about.
“Adrian met all the criteria to be our Youth of the Year by maintaining a high GPA and showing involvement at our club and in our community,” Warren said. “He is also a great representative for our deaf and hard-of-hearing program in that he is a CODA [a child of a deaf adult].”
Last week’s event was presided over by entertainer Johnny Holiday, who is the great-nephew of the legendry Bing Crosby.
“When Johnny agreed to be our master of ceremonies, he found out about Adrian and offered to mentor him with his public-speaking skills,” Warren said. “He bought him a suit, arranged for him to get a haircut, and really worked with him in the preparation and delivery of his acceptance speech.”
The event included members in the club’s creative arts and deaf and hard-of- hearing programs performing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” Attendees at last week’s event also enjoyed a spirited live auction that saw a puppy from Hand In Paw Rescue bring in a winning bid of $10,000 from entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Supowitz.
Among the numerous dignitaries and special guests in attendance were U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Mayor Jess Talamantes, Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony, City Councilmembers Bob Frutos and Sharon Springer, former mayors Michael Hastings and Dave Golonski, former City Councilman Tim Murphy and representatives from the Burbank Unified School District.
Warren, who equated the planning and preparation of this annual event to putting on an elaborate wedding, said she was extremely thankful for everyone who made last week’s gala a success.
“My staff and the board members work so hard to put this event on, which takes about six months of planning,” Warren said. “Everything from securing and coordinating the silent and live auction items down to all the nice little touches like the wine glasses everyone received, it happens because of their hard work and effort, and I am extremely grateful to each of them and to everyone who came out to support us.”
Proceeds from last week’s gala will assist in funding the club’s numerous education, enrichment, deaf and hard-ofhearing, creative arts, athletics, teen and college-bound programs.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563- 1007.