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|Santa Monica Red Cross Raises More than Half a Million|
By Jorge Casuso
April 23, 2012 -- The Santa Monica Red Cross raised more than $500,000, in including in-kind donations, at its star-studded gala fundraising dinner Saturday night in Santa Monica, according to a preliminary tally by Red Cross officials.
The often-rollicking Red-Tie affair at the Fairmont Miramar drew more than 450 guests who laughed, cheered and applauded celebrity honorees Jaime Lee Curtis, J.R. Martinez and Denis Leary, as well as renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Timothy Miller.
Curtis, donning a red low-cut gown and stylish, but scholarly spectacles, accepted the "American Red Cross Crystal Cross Humanitarian Award" for her volunteer work helping the non-profit agency promote several public awareness campaigns for emergency preparedness.
The actress and children's book author, who is a member of the organization's national celebrity cabinet, good-naturedly chided the Red Cross for yanking the trademark hat worn by a character in the first edition of one of her children's books.
"They claimed copyright infringement," said Curtis, whose books have sold more than 5 million copies. "Basically it was cease and desist." For subsequent editions, the character wore "a big red heart instead of a cross."
Curtis thanked the Red Cross volunteers, who according to agency officials made some 300,000 emergency connections nationwide last year.
"I'm just a very busty, semi-famous volunteer," Curtis said. "They are the first people you see on the scene. The first people you see when you call" in an emergency.
Martinez, an Iraq war veteran who was severely burned after his truck struck a land mine then went on to become an actor and winner on "Dancing with the Stars," was awarded the "Spirit of Inspiration Award."
Martinez suffered severe burns on more than 40 percent of his body and required 35 surgeries. After becoming a celebrity, he was named one of the sexiest men alive by People magazine.
"After I ran over the landmine, I started to blame, I started to question," Martinez told the crowd. "I was 19 years old. I felt I would have been better off if I hadn't survived."
Martinez said he accepted the award because he "shares a lot in common" with the Red Cross.
"We have driven down the same road sometimes completely dark," Martine said. "The Red Cross steps up and gives everybody hope."
Comedian and actor Denis Leahy received the American Red Cross "Spirit of Service Award" for his work in raising millions of dollars through The Leary Firefighters Foundation to help fire departments obtain the best available equipment, technology and training.
Dr. Miller -- chief of Plastic Surgery for Operation Mend at Ronald Regan/UCLA Medical Center -- was the recipient of the prestigious "Rick Crocker Spirit of Volunteerism Award" for his work helping to reconstruct the faces and bodies of wounded war veterans.
The hospital's Operation Mend, Dr. Miller said, "has treated some of the very worst" injured soldiers. "those who literally have no face, no nose or lips."
It's not only "the physical change, but the change in attitude, in their approach to life," that is so rewarding, said Dr. Miller, who worked with soldiers during the war in Vietnam. "I can't think of anything in my professional life that has been more rewarding."
In addition to Curtis, Martinez and Leary, celebrity guests at the 2012 gala included numerous personalities from the world of entertainment and sports, including actor Josh Duhamel, Playmate/models Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt, and NFL player Hank Baskett.
Also attending were actors Tom Payne, Christina Moore, Chad Rogers, Susan Blakely, D.B. Sweeney, Suleka Mathews, Christa B. Allen and David Joyner, as well as dancer Karina Smirnoff, extreme surfer Garrett McNamara and Kathy and Rick Hilton.
KTTV Fox 11 News anchor Christine Devine was the event's Mistress of Ceremonies for the fifth year in a row, and Celebrity chef, author and TV show host Nick Stellino supervised the preparation of the four- course gourmet dinner.
Funds raised at the Red Tie Affair will go towards Red Cross disaster preparedness efforts.
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