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Dancing Fundraiser Highlights ‘Valley Stars’

Six local executives took to the stage at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills on Oct. 14 at the Valley Cultural Center’s annual “Dancing with Our Valley Stars” fundraising gala and live auction. The event netted $30,000 to support the center’s ongoing programming, which includes summertime concerts in Warner Park, Saturday “Movies on the Green” and Monday morning concerts for children. Around 350 attendees witnessed the performance. Participating execs included Ty Brassie, director of sales and marketing at the Warner Center Marriott; Monica Rodriguez, vice president of the board of public works for the City of Los Angeles; John Popoch, deputy chief of staff in the office of L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield; Kathy Banuelos, vice president of government affairs at NBCUniversal; Dustin Troyan, president and chief executive of Connected Media Group; and Talar Dardarian, customer service manager at Wells Fargo Bank. They were partnered with dancers Stephanie Merritt, Amber McGindley, John Capobianco, Orion Gullett, John Ochla and Lacy Melendez of Arthur Murray Dance Studio, which provided the participants twice-weekly dance lessons for nearly three months, free of charge. “We’re very appreciative of the Valley executives taking the time out of their busy schedules to support our nonprofit,” said Valley Cultural Center Chief Executive James W. Kinsey III. “We not only respect their time but appreciate their support of our mission.” Partners Dardarian and Capobianco won the competition with their vivacious cha-cha. Other winners of the evening included the top bidders on ocean and river cruises from Viking Cruises and a week’s stay at an 11,000-square-foot private vacation home in Mexico. Rappelling for Vets What do SWAT team members, “Major Crimes” star Tony Denison and Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta have in common? Bragging rights. They all rappelled from the roof of the 25-story Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City on Oct. 7 and 8 to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of San Fernando-Santa Clarita Valleys and Homes for Families’ “Enriched Neighborhood” initiative to provide affordable housing for veterans. Other notable jumpers included Lily Knight, wife of U.S. Congressman Steve Knight; Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian; and former California State Assemblyman Cameron Smith. A total of 65 participants took the plunge, netting $102,000 for the project. “This event brought together veterans, members of the Los Angeles SWAT team and other community members, every one of them a hero to our families – not only for rappelling down 25 stories, but also for raising money for affordable housing for veterans,” said Richard Doss, chair of Habitat for Humanity. Each rappeler was required to raise at least $1,000 to participate. Denison, who served as grand marshall, collected nearly $5,000 from 46 individual donors. The event was produced by Over the Edge, a group that organizes rappelling fundraisers for nonprofits. Major sponsors included Duct Testers, First Bank, O.C. Concrete and Pacific Coast Civil. The funds will be used to complete the last 24 homes of the new 78-home Enriched Neighborhood for veterans in Santa Clarita. In addition to low-income housing, the neighborhood offers financial literacy workshops and services like the My Trauma Informed Military Enrichment program, or My TIME. Promoting Road Safety More than 1,500 walkers and runners laced up their shoes on Oct. 23 in support of the Conor Lynch Foundation to participate in the organization’s annual 5K run. The event was held in Sherman Oaks at the Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park and featured a number of celebrity runners, including actress Claudia Wells and musician Michael Aston. In keeping with the event’s ’80s theme, participants donned Sony Walkmans, aerobic leotards, big hair and tight shorts. A bunch of young runners in banana costumes made an appearance as well, adding a spot of bright yellow to the already colorful herd. The Conor Lynch Foundation was founded in 2010 by Mark and Jeri Dye Lynch in memory of their son Conor, an avid runner who was training with his high school cross country team when he was hit and killed by a distracted driver. The nonprofit’s mission is to use his story to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving through events like the annual 5K, as well as to establish comprehensive road safety programs in California and throughout the United States. This year’s run capped off National Teen Driver Safety Week, commemorated Oct. 16 through 22 at schools across the country. Staff Reporter Helen Floersh can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or hfloersh@sfvbj.com.

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