Joe Adams and Mechelle Lawrence Adams (Mission San Juan Capistrano executive director) with Bishop Kevin Vann. (Carla Rhea / September 20, 2013)

It is an annual tradition that is part of the cultural and religious history of California. More importantly, it is an event that attracts a wide variety of O.C. citizens who feel a strong connection to Mission San Juan Capistrano. Romance of the Mission 2013 unfolded Sept. 20, attracting more than 400 guests, many of them Newport-Mesa residents, netting proceeds exceeding $220,000.

Proceeds will further the preservation of historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, including the vital historic investigation necessary for conserving the ancient Sala building, according to mission representative Barbara Kimler.

The spectacular evening under the stars paid tribute to Mission Preservation board member Mike Hagan and was fronted by a concert headlined by actress/singer Susan Egan. The Egan concert took on a magical aura in the ruins of the Great Stone Church. Many in the crowd felt that the songs from the Tony Award-nominee captured a transcendent musical quality.

A candlelight dinner was served in the mission courtyard prepared and served by the staff of the generous Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. In the crowd greeting well-wishers were Mission Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, Preservation Board President George O'Connell, Connie Spenuzza, Barb Beier, Don Dorkowski and Bruce Brainerd.

To learn more about mission preservation, contact Beier at (949) 234-1323 or visit http://www.missionsjc.com.

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Champions of hope

The Global Genes RARE Project held its second annual gala at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach on Sept. 21, bringing together local citizens intent on fighting rare diseases that do not get attention in the public sphere.

Founded in Aliso Viejo in 2008 by the nonprofit's president, Nicole Boice, the Global Genes RARE Project has gathered doctors, researchers, donors and advocates in the political arena committed to making a difference in the lives of patients and their families challenged by rare genetic diseases.

Boice and her committee bring together distinguished honorees to shine a spotlight on their work to increase public awareness. Those honored at the Balboa Bay Resort gala included Dr. Stephen Groft, director of National Institutes of Health's Office of Rare Diseases Research, Rick Guidotti, Josh Sommer, Dylan Siegel, Jonah Pournazarian and Andrew McMahon.

VIPs spotted in the crowd were Carri Levy, Henri Termeer, Greg Simon, Eileen Grubba, Carmen Argenziano and Christine Grund.

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Preserving Crystal Cove

A majestic white tent was erected on the bluff top overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Newport Center Drive. As night fell on the coast Saturday, the white tent came to life as a beacon of light amid the acres of dark green scrub brush that form a buffer between the ocean and the Newport Coast.

It was the setting for the 11th annual Crystal Cove Alliance Gala, which organizers whimsically titled "Wish You Were Here."

The massive party, which attracted a sell-out crowd exceeding 500 guests, was presented by the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach. Gala chairs Doug and Julie Cavanaugh joined Crystal Cove Alliance President and CEO Harry Helling, Alliance Board Chair Bill Baker, and founder and director Laura Davick in producing one of the liveliest events of the harvest season.

A cocktail reception at sunset on the bluff under the direction of the Beachcomber Café and the Resort at Pelican Hill welcomed the arriving crush attired in "beach chic," with waiters offering Crystal Cove mai tais and the appropriate pupus.

The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of beach lovers meandered through nostalgic, surf-themed memorabilia and sipped their sunset cocktails, ogling 1950s-era American automobiles including an elegant 1955 white Cadillac convertible. At sunset, the crowd was invited into the tent for dinner as the Wayne Foster Entertainment Orchestra performed the full range of California surf music favorites.

The evening was created in part to pay tribute to the distinguished and generous honorees Tricia and Michael Berns. The Newport Beach couple made a $1-million donation earmarked for the preservation of pristine acreage in El Moro Canyon adjacent to Crystal Cove.

Addressing the dinner crowd, Michael Berns said, "The experience I remember most growing up and attending school in Los Angeles was my field trip to the Helms Bakery." A laugh from the audience was followed by Berns' explanation of how important experiencing life in different forms is to a young student, especially to a child who may not have the opportunity to experience life outside of the confines of his or her own limited world.

Both Tricia and Michael went on to share with the audience that their personal time hiking through the canyons behind Crystal Cove has been a life-enhancing and often awe-inspiring time for them. On a more serious note, Tricia Berns said, "I also believe that our hikes in El Moro Canyon had a healing effect on my husband, who had been fighting a life-threatening disease."

Supporting the Crystal Cove Alliance were Kim Effinger, Paul Fenner, Fred Salter, Pamela Schmider, Madeline Swinden, Kathy Winton, and Kerry and Gavin Herbert.

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Shop, save and support

The Angelitos Card is on sale now at South Coast Plaza at any of the concierge stations at the retail center. A $60 donation will purchase the card, which entitles the shopper to save 20% at 120 participating South Coast Plaza boutiques and restaurants for one glorious week of shopping from Oct. 10 to 16.

Angelitos de Oro, a support auxiliary of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, produces this fundraiser annually at the holiday season with card sales directly benefiting the important work of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Brenda Eastman, president of Angelitos, reports that 100% of young people mentored by Big Brothers Big Sisters are graduating high school in Orange County and that more than 90% are attending college. The dedicated Kathy Harrison is leading the committee this year, organizing the shopping effort with assistance from local women including Jana Hackett, Marilyn Wooten and Barbara Cline, who, along with her husband David Cline, hosted a launch party for the Angelitos Card recently at their spectacular and historic Balboa Peninsula bayfront estate.

For more information, call (949) 642-9883 or go to http://www.angelitosdeoro.org.

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.