Laguna Schools Benefit from SchoolPower’s 37th Annual Gala


SchoolPower, Laguna Beach’s Education Foundation, hosted its 37th Annual Gala with the theme “JOY!” on March 18 at Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club. 

LBHS Principal Jason Allemann, Thurston Principal Joe Vidal and Superintendent Jason Viloria at JOY!, SchoolPower’s 37th Annual Gala. Photo by Candice Dartez Photography

Chaired by Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal, Ayesha Mahapatra, and Anita Sankaran Piskun, the event brought together parents, community members, sponsors and educators to support Laguna Beach students.

“Joy was an effervescent experience,” gala co-chair Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal said. “A night when Anita, Ayesha and I shared aspects of our South Asian culture to reflect the joy that SchoolPower brings to our students, staff and families. From trustee Ashley Brown’s stunning decor, to the Bollywood Flash Mob, to a sea of vibrant colors, we were thrilled to create an evening where we could all come together to celebrate the wins for our community.”

After a cocktail reception on the lawn that featured a performance by Rang de Irvine, UCI’s Bhangra Dance Troupe, SchoolPower President Amy Dechary welcomed more than 325 guests in the ballroom, decorated with fresh florals by Gary Samuelian of FLOWER DADDY. A surprise flash mob entertained guests made up of men from the SchoolPower board of trustees joined by LBUSD administrators. Both attendees and supporters from home bid furiously on auction items procured by the SchoolPower board of trustees under the leadership of auction chair Danielle Roedersheimer. The silent auction included jewelry pieces from Frederic H. Rubel, Gorjana and Rock Martin; a collector Death Star Lego set; beauty treatments from Laguna Aesthetics and HēBē Skin Health; and an activity-filled Sunday at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club with Farmers & Merchants Bank. The live auction featured travel and experiences, including getaways to the Big Island of Hawaii, Montage Healdsburg, a private home in Aspen during the X Games, a Nueva Vallarta penthouse, and an In-N-Out Burger party truck, a Monster Jam extravaganza and a VIP Coachella package.

SchoolPower President Amy Francis-Dechary and SchoolPower trustee Paul Dechary at JOY!, SchoolPower’s 37th Annual Gala. Photo by Candice Dartez Photography

At the podium, SchoolPower Executive Director Sarah Durand highlighted the success of three SchoolPower programs this last year: the enrichment After School Program now coordinated by SchoolPower, the Family Resource Center in partnership with LBUSD and the SchoolPower Grant Program for educators. Grant recipients, including Jacquie Cohn (TOW) and Kathleen Margaretich (El Morro), Ivonne Redard (LBUSD), Jun Shen and Sarah Benson (LBHS), Grace Jones (LBHS) and Joe Vidal (TMS), then spoke of the impact on their students. 

“The gala was really magical,” attendee and El Morro parent Lauren Boeck said. “Since we moved here three years ago, I’ve appreciated how enthusiastically parents give back. It’s been said before that giving is not about making a donation–it’s about making a difference. What a huge difference it makes when our Laguna community comes together in support of our students. Bryan (Boeck’s husband) and I are thrilled to support SchoolPower’s programs, including teacher grants and the After School Program classes.”

By the end of the night, over $220,000 was raised for Laguna Beach students through the fund-a-need and auctions. Tickets are allocated through donations to SchoolPower’s annual campaign, which has raised over $500,000 in the 2022-2023 school year. 

“What a joyful event,” Durand said. “I am so thankful for the team of staff and volunteers who put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into executing such a spectacular evening. I am always awed by the incredible generosity of our guests and love seeing the connections that are made when we gather together, united in our support of Laguna Beach students.”

SchoolPower wishes to thank the 2023 Gala sponsors who helped make the event possible, including Greenberg Traurig, Montage International, Angels Baseball Foundation, Fredric H. Rubel, FLOWER DADDY and Coast Film & Music Festival.

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