When Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, two budding actresses in the late '50s, were selected to fly to Japan to entertain American soldiers during the Korean War, a friendship was instantly formed.
One restless afternoon, they snuck out of their hotel room for a midday walk and eventually stumbled upon a group of orphans. In that moment, they decided they would smuggle the 11 children into their hotel room.
It was then when they realized they wanted and needed to do more to help kids like them.
Thus, Childhelp was born, and O’Meara and Fedderson spent decades side by side as founders of the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk children, including victims of abuse and neglect.
Now, 60 years later, the nonprofit will celebrate its Diamond Jubilee at the 15th annual Drive the Dream Gala, on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale.
Proceeds from the star-studded gala will directly benefit Childhelp's Children's Advocacy Center of Arizona, which will see more than 8,000 children this year.
Since 1998, CCCAZ has served over 140,000 abused and neglected children through providing treatment, intervention and investigation services.
This year’s gala’s theme is “60 Years of Miracles.”
“We are celebrating 60 years of Childhelp miracles on the national stage, but this sensational Childhelp Diamond Jubilee is fundraising for the programs and services right here at home in Arizona,” said O’Meara, Childhelp co-founder, chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. “These are our children and they deserve an extra special miracle this year.”
Event chairs of the gala are Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, chair of functional medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), and Richard J Stephenson, founder and chairman of CTCA. Governor Doug Ducey and wife Angela Ducey will serve as honorary chairs.
The Diamond Jubilee will honor Senator Jon Kyl and Caryll Kyl with the Childhelp Jubilee Award.
Patrick J. McGroder III will receive the Childhelp Nellie Jackson Award, which is awarded to those who have gone above and beyond to raise resources for abused and neglected children. Past recipients include Brand Drivers in 2018 and Shannon Edwards of WD-40 in 2017.
Expected celebrity guests include comedienne Kathie Lee Gifford, journalist Megyn Kelly, "Dancing With the Stars" stars Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd, "Charlie's Angels" actress Cheryl Ladd, "Hawaiian Eye" actress Connie Stevens, "Baby Daddy" actress Chelsea Kane and "Seinfeld" star John O'Hurley.
"All My Children" star Cameron Mathison will also be present at the event as a celebrity ambassador.
"I have two children of my own, and as a parent I know that the most important things for a child are their well being and safety,” he said. “How lucky my children are to live in a loving, safe environment; every child should have this same opportunity.”
“Reba” actress Melissa Peterman will emcee.
“I have been an ambassador for Childhelp since my “Charlie’s Angels” days, and it has been a life changing experience,” Ladd said. “I look forward to seeing so many friends whom I have worked with over the years and to see Sara and Yvonne celebrate their 60 years of hard work, dedication and absolute love for children.”
In addition to dancing and fine dining, guests will be entertained with live performances by The Pointer Sisters, The Tenors, Pia Toscano, Stacey Kay, Caroline Campbell, William Joseph and Jonathan Cullen.
“Sara and Yvonne are an inspiration when it comes to compassion, generosity and grace,” said Kane, who grew up in Scottsdale. “I believe if you want more kindness in the world, you put it there.”
Tickets start at $1,000 and cap at $150,000. Those unable to attend have the option to donate money on Childhelp’s website.
Since 1959, Childhelp has served over 10.5 million children nationally. In Arizona, the organization, which is the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit advocating for abused and neglected children, has impacted over 40,000 children.
“We believe there is a diamond in the heart of every child, and it is our job to make these children shine,” O’Meara said.
If You Go:
15th Annual Childhelp Drive the Dream Gala
When: Feb. 2, 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m.
Where: 6000 E. Camelback Rd.