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A shining sea of satin at the Silver Rose ball

They smiled, they curtsied, they dazzled in white.

Posted: April 3, 2008 4:53 p.m.
Updated: June 4, 2008 5:05 a.m.

Debutantes Ashley Mae Lynn Marie King, left, and Nicole Bergantino describe their experiences at the HMNMH Silver Rose Debutante Ball on March 29. The debutantes performed a grand waltz with their fathers during the event, the culmination of the 2007-08 debutante season.

It was a sea of satin at the Sheraton Universal on Saturday as 14 Santa Clarita Valley debutantes enjoyed the final social event of the 2007-08 season at the 22nd annual Henry Mayo Guild Silver Rose Debutante Ball.

Approximately 240 guests attended the ball, which raised funds for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital's laboratory services. The high school seniors were presented individually by Marlee Lauffer, board chair of the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation and vice president of communications at Newhall Land.

"This is a magical evening, not just for our community hospital, but for all of these young ladies," Lauffer said. "It's a special treat for family and friends to watch our debutantes blossom from girls to women. They're growing up fast, yes, but they're growing up with compassion, enthusiasm and grace."

After a speech by Henry Mayo Guild president Virginia Hart, the debutantes were escorted to the stage by cadets of the prestigious U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

The 2008 class of presented-debutantes included Chantalle Alexandrea Maria Barritt, Charlotte Heather Boon, Rachel Andrea Cox and Kiara Lin Price of Valencia High; Nicole Marie Bergantino, Desiree Danielle Gravel, Kimberly Nicole Hedman and Dominique Alexandra Picker-Lombardo of Hart High; Stephanie Elise Stein and Shawnie Helene Britnay Wise-Hawkins of Canyon High; Jillian Rose Tuso of West Ranch High; Ashley Mae Lynn Marie King of Santa Clarita Christian School; Tatianna Paloma McBride of Alemany High School; and Nicole Alicia Ryan, who is home-schooled.

One by one, the lovely young ladies curtsied before the audience before joining their tuxedo-clad fathers, or in two cases father and stepfather, for a stroll across the stage to thunderous applause from family and friends.

Then it was time for the grand waltz. After six weeks of lessons, the fathers and daughters took a twirl together on the dance floor, swishing and swaying to an impressively choreographed number that would have fit right in on "Dancing with the Stars."

According to Connie Russo, who has choreographed the Silver Rose Debutante Balls' grand waltz for the last 15 years, the lessons paid off well. "At first, they're nervous, but at the end, everyone just relaxes and enjoys it," Russo said.

Jeffrey Stein, of Sand Canyon, certainly did, coming off the dance floor with a big grin on his face. "That was amazing, just fantastic," he said. "I feel such pride, love and fulfillment.

There's no question that we're creating future memories for Stephanie and I here tonight."

Stephanie Stein, a petite, bright-eyed blonde who plans to attend a private school for business after graduation, concurred. "That was so much fun. I messed up a little bit, but it just made it that much more fun," she said. "It's been great to spend this time with my dad."

"Let's have a ball!" Lauffer pronounced after the waltz, allowing for some freestyle dancing by attendees before a dinner of filet mignon and salmon was served. In the background, a live band played a selection of songs handpicked by the debutantes for their fathers.

Family and friends enjoyed camaraderie at each 10-person table, which debutantes are required to fill at $165 a seat, while the debutantes themselves enjoyed quality time with the cadets at the main table.

Decked out in a sparkly black evening dress, Virginia Hart watched over the festivities like a proud mother. "This class of debutantes has just been incredible. I've enjoyed getting to know each and every one. This evening marks the beginning of a very bright future for them," the guild president said.

Established in 1985, the Silver Rose Debutante Program is open to seniors in high school and college freshman, while juniors in high school may participate in the guild's junior debutante program.

Debutante participation involves a minimum 2.5 GPA, 50 hours of community service, etiquette education, planning and attending of social events, as well as attending and volunteering at hospital fundraisers, such as the Debutante Ball.

"Being a debutante has shown me how to be a lady, how to dress, talk and RSVP. It's made me mature faster," said statuesque brunette Kiara Price, whose mother Gretchen is a former debutante. "It's taught me how to get along with people, make friends and participate in my community by being of service."

While Price performed the grand waltz with her father, Klaus Price, she was presented by Price and her stepfather, Larry Keys. The gentlemen were effusive in their praise for Kiara, as well as the debutante program overall.

"Kiara's always been very focused, determined and goal-oriented and the debutante program is the same way," Price said.

"This program has taught her how to bridge being a modern woman and a traditional woman. Seeing Kiara do that waltz was just spectacular," Keys said as he shook his head in amazement. "Kids today don't know how to dance like that anymore."

Price nodded. "I never would have believed that I would have done all this," he said, touching the collar of his tuxedo with white-gloved hands, "but I did it for her."

Applications are now being accepted for the 2008-09 Henry Mayo Guild Silver Rose Debutante program. For more information, call the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation at (661) 253-8082.


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