The fates shone on Heal the Bay last night at our annual “Bring Back the Beach” Annual Awards Gala.
After a week of May Gray, the sun gloriously took over at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. Under a gentle breeze and the gaze of a beaming lighthouse, more than 700 guests schmoozed on the sand and saluted our honorees: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Univision TV anchor Gabriela Teissier and Hollywood couple and sustainability champions Zooey Deschanel and husband Jacob Pechenik of The Farm Project.
L.A.’s biggest beach party always draws an eclectic crowd — from Venice artists to Silver Lake activists, DTLA policy wonks to South Bay surfers. Buoyed by tasty cocktails (blood orange margaritas!) and good vibes, our guests came out in beach-chic style to support our biggest fundraiser of the year.
Thanks to their generosity we met our goals, raising more than one-fifth of our annual operating budget in a single night. Proceeds of the night underwrite a number of programs, from water-quality monitoring to subsidized field trips for underserved youth to visit our Aquarium.
Mayor Garcetti was the undeniable star of the evening. His sincere and humble comments about what Heal the Bay has meant to our city – and to him personally – had the crowd rapt. With his quick wit and clear command of policy, it’s easy to see why he’s a rumored candidate for the 2020 presidency. The Mayor bookended his speech with poems by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. Here is the beginning of “The Sea”:
I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
In addition to Univision brass, Teissier brought her entire family to salute her longtime commitment to broadcasting stories about ocean and river protection to L.A.’s Spanish-speaking community. Fundraising galas can be long events, so it was endearing to see her sons patiently playing on a jungle gym while waiting for Mom to get her big award. Speaking passionately in both English and Spanish, Teissier recounted stories of her own upbringing and reaffirmed that Latino women have historically stood at the forefront of the environmental movement in Southern California.
Board member and fellow actress Amy Smart welcomed Deschanel and Pechenik to the Heal the Bay family. The couple, who run The Farm Project to better connect consumers directly to the producers of the food, spoke passionately about the growing scourge of plastic pollution in our food chain and greater environment. To cheers, Zooey talked about making smarter choices as consumer: “You weigh the options — single-use plastic vs. a healthy planet … get rid of that single-use plastic! It’s not worth it. It’s convenient filler. It doesn’t do ANYTHING for you. It doesn’t make you laugh or cry!” Well said.
Other supporters making waves: Meg Gill, an HTB board member and founder of Golden Road Brewing, sampling the newly revised version of Heal the Bay IPA with other beer lovers. (Gill is an avid swimmer, who still holds the female record for the fastest 50-meter swim ever recorded in the Ivy League!); Black Surfers Collective leaders Jeff Williams and Greg Rachal charming “Jumanji” co-star Ser’Darius Blain into participating in our upcoming Nick Gabaldon Day; a determined and persistent online bidder from New Jersey who triumphed at our Live Auction to secure a private Goodyear Blimp tour of the Santa Monica Bay.
Major props to the musical talent for the evening – the James Gang. The multi-player party band had supporters boogieing to the very end with their diverse chops, from spirited covers of Dr. Dre to soulful send-ups of Van the Man. They sent many a guest shimmying to their awaiting Lyft rides.
And a deep thank you to our dinner co-chairs: Malibu architect David Hertz and South Bay champion Kim Conant-Blum. Their boundless energy proved to be the ideal one-two punch for a successful evening under the stars.
A final thank you to our dynamic team of Heal the Bay volunteers, staff, leadership, Board, our incredible photographers Colin Young-Wolff, Dan Do-Linh and Nicola Buck, our brilliant event producer Natalie McAdams of NAMEVENTS and all of the gracious staff at the Jonathan Club.