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‘Magic’ at Festival of Trees gala

Boys & Girls Club of SCV earns nearly $70,000 in auction of trees at annual Magic of the Lights Gala

Posted: November 21, 2012 5:38 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2012 5:38 p.m.

Left to right, Dante Acosta, Heather Sandnes, Eric Larson, Myrna and Gary Condie and Heather Lake, Kim Larson kneels at front. The Gold Star Families tree earned $7,250 at the auction.

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It was a moving moment amid the festive joy of the holiday season that brought tears to the eyes of many at the annual Magic of the Lights Gala on Saturday.

The event, part of the Festival of Trees, benefited the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley.
Heather Sandnes, designer of the Gold Star Families Fallen Heroes to Angeles tree, burst into tears when she tried to speak about her brother, Army Pfc. Jose Ricardo Flores-Mejia, who was 21 when he died in Mosul, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device hit his convoy.

He died without ever meeting his 8-day-old daughter.

“This time of year is hard for the families who have lost loved ones,” Sandnes said. “My brother passed away eight years ago yesterday. Please remember all the fallen heroes and those still fighting for us this holiday season.”

When the tree was announced the audience of nearly 400 attendees rose in a standing ovation.

“Let’s make sure this tree really rocks,” said Chris Schauble, the co-anchor of KTLA 5 Morning News, who served as event emcee.

The tree, decorated with photos of SCV military who have died, was among 18 trees and other items auctioned during the fundraiser.

“A lot of the Gold Star families came out and decorated the tree last weekend,” said Dante Acosta, who lost his son, Rudy Acosta, in Afghanastan.

“This tree symbolizes what America is all about: sacrifice and service above yourself. We decorate this tree to our fallen heroes”

After the bidding war for the tree ended, a coalition of SCV residents purchased the tree for $7,250.

“It’s moments like this that make us proud to live in the SCV,” said Schauble.

Coalition spokesman Gary Condie said the group plans to donate the tree to the city of Santa Clarita so the tree can be displayed at City Hall “where everyone can see it.”

The Fallen Heroes tree earned more than the elaborate Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor tree, which brought in the second highest amount at the auction — $5, 700.

Mark Drilling, of Stokes Auction Group, served as auctioneer.

Entertainment at the gala was provided by the Sound Vibrations from the William S. Hart High School Show Choir and the King Family singers.

“It was incredibly moving and touching to see what people did tonight for the Gold Star Families. I am so proud to be part of this community,” said Ronda Chobanian, Boys & Girls Club of SCV foundation director. “I cried.”


On Sunday afternoon, Bryan Lake, director of administration of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV, held a live auction of dozens of silent auction trees, more than 50 tabletop trees and 105 gingerbread houses.

“It’s nice to see everybody’s spirits up and more comfortable spending money,” said Jim Ventress, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV. “We haven’t seen that for a while. It’s raising my spirits this holiday season.”

The tree auction raised nearly $70,000 with additional money still to be counted from gingerbread houses, tabletop trees, wreathes, sponsorships and admission tickets to the festival.

Chobanian said the Foundation hoped to raise more than $100,000 from the event.



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