HomeCommunity NewsDavid Laurell: Boys & Girls Club Saddles Up for Derby Day Gala

David Laurell: Boys & Girls Club Saddles Up for Derby Day Gala


While more than 1,800 miles separates Lakeside Golf Club from Churchill Downs, the spirit of the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby was on full display at the Toluca Lake venue as supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley gathered for the organization’s annual gala fundraiser on May 4.

Presented under the theme “Run for the Roses,” more than 400 supporters, crowned in colorful wide-brimmed beauties and feathery fascinators, gathered on Lakeside’s lawn just as a 3-year-old Bay Colt named Mystik Dan, who went off as 16-to-1 longshot, bettered 19 horses to win one of the closest finishes in derby history.

As guests arrived at the golf club, Angie Campbell and Marius Layus, outfitted in jockey silks, gave Lakeside’s entrance a look reminiscent of New York’s legendary “21 Club” restaurant where a group of ornamental jockeys, donated by various thoroughbred racing stables, once stood guard.

Angie Campbell and Marius Layus suited up in their jockey silks and welcomed attendees to the “Run for the Roses” gala.

After accepting mint julips from Campbell and Layus, attendees perused a silent auction prior to the evening’s program, which included welcoming remarks from the event’s mistress of ceremonies, anchorwomen Lynette Romero of NBC4’s “Today in LA,” and Shanna Warren, who serves as the CEO of the local youth club.

The extensive live auction was conducted by legendary Burbank athletic coach Mike Graceffo, who worked for the city, St. Francis Xavier School, St. Finbar School, all four local high schools, the Michael Jordan and B.J. Armstrong basketball camps, and the Boys & Girls Club.

The auction followed with a ceremony honoring the evening’s three honorees: former Burbank Parks Director and City Manager Mary Alvord, and former Community Development Director Sue Georgio who, since 2009, have served as the facilitators of the Leadership Burbank program, and Sage Peña, who was recognized as the club’s 2024 Youth of the Year. Currently a junior at Burbank High School, Peña is the longest tenured member of the club having joined when she was in first grade.

“I grew up in the club,” said Peña. “I took advantage of everything they have ever offered. Every program. And I can’t image my life without the club — all the experiences I have had and the staff and friends I have made over the years.”

Washington Elementary School student Janiesa, 6, was part of the performing arts team that provided the day’s entertainment.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by the club’s deaf and hard of hearing team, as well as the organization’s performing arts group. The combo sang and signed Dan Fogelberg’s “Run for the Roses,” while handing out long-stem roses to women in attendance. The club’s dance team also performed to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Among the dignitaries and notables in attendance at last week’s event were Mayor Nick Schultz, Vice Mayor Nikki Pérez, Burbank Unified School District Board Vice President Armond Aghakhanian, former Mayor Jess Talamantes, former City Councilman Tim Murphy, City Manager Justin Hess, Assistant City Manager Courtney Padgett, former Police Chief Scott LaChasse, numerous members of Burbank boards and commissions, Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas, Boys & Girls Club Vice President Brian Volpei, club board members and staff, and the gala’s chairwoman, Natalie Zuckerman Augustine.

Other special guests included members of the Alvord and Georgino family, and Peña’s father and stepmother Omar Peña and Janett Contreras.

The club’s 2024 Youth of the Year Sage Peña is flanked by her stepmother Janett Contreras and father Omar Peña.

The Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley currently operates in 34 sites and serves more than 3,600 local youth. Partnering with the Los Angeles and Burbank school districts, the Burbank Housing Corporation, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, they provide teen, after-school, and deaf and hard of hearing programs.

For more information on club membership or to make a donation, visit bgcburbank.org.

Donned in a derby dress is honoree Mary Alvord, who is accompanied by her longtime beau Eric Hansen.
This year’s fundraiser was overseen by Boys & Girls Club CEO Shanna Warren and Tracey Ban, who serves as director of marketing and special events.
Gala chairwoman Natalie Zuckerman Augustine and her husband, Chris, were among those who made last week’s event a success.
NBC anchorwoman Lynette Romero of “Today in LA” and her husband, David, arriving at Lakeside Golf Club.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

First published in the May 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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