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LOS ANGELES After a year off, the Friends of El Faro fund-raiser, which benefits the children of the Casa Hogar Sion Orphanage in Tijuana, returned for the fifth time in six years on Thursday night with a new venue and a smaller guest count.
Event producer and El Faro board member Jim McAleer explained the organization simply didn't have enough volunteer manpower last year to move forward with a fund-raiser. “We are a solely volunteer organization,” McAleer said. “Last year, everyone was in the midst of their lives and wanted to hold off.” Indeed, with guest counts exceeding 1,000 for each fund-raiser, and past venue selections like the expansive Barker Hanger, the organization needed substantial support to produce the event. “I love the Barker Hanger, but when you have to bring everything in from scratch sometimes it's, like, shoot me in the head,” McAleer said, referring to the logistic challenges of pulling together the staff necessary to work in a space that big and blank.
This year, the organization went with the more intimate Boulevard 3, thereby eliminating some of the workload of previous years. For starters, organizers reduced the guest count to a little more than 500, due to the venue's size. Furthermore, McAleer, who normally begins the planning process by creating a design concept, was so impressed with the venue's existing look that he only had his team bring in simple pieces to complement the environment.
The staff took advantage of the venue's most eye-catching feature—a towering fireplace over a small courtyard pool—by branding it with a Friends of El Faro gobo, and stuck with neutral, earth-toned lighting schemes to avoid clashing with existing furniture and decor. Red floral arrangements paired with leaves in autumnal shades added a warm splash of color on available tabletops.
Volunteers removed Boulevard 3's existing benches to make way for a small silent auction setup behind the courtyard fireplace, and hung photos of the orphanage's children on the walls inside the club. Short, heart-tugging paragraphs that shared the young orphans' struggles and stories accompanied the images, which were for sale. “I loved being able to tell a story with visuals and words,” McAleer said. “In larger venues, you have to create a branded image that people can get in two seconds, but here we could really tell people about the individual kids.”