Southern California's Top Benefits 2009

February 16, 2009, 8:00 AM EST

The Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Photo: Mathew Imaging

1. Carousel of Hope
Barbara Davis’s fund-raiser is known for attracting celebrities and raising big bucks—more than $80 million since its inception in 1982. Last year’s ball at the Beverly Hilton honored Pauletta and Denzel Washington, and included performances by the Jonas Brothers and Josh Groban.

2. Race to Erase MS
Nancy Davis partners with Tommy Hilfiger to host this event, which last year raised $2 million for Multiple Sclerosis research with the help of auction items like a shopping trip with the Hilton sisters. The 16th annual benefit is scheduled for May 8 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.

3. Los Angeles Opera Opening Weekend Celebration
Each year, the Los Angeles Opera launches its season with three days of events. Last year’s festivities included a dinner at a private home for donors, as well as a presentation of the season’s new productions at the Music Center.

4. Los Angeles Philharmonic Gala
The premier local orchestra opened its 2008-2009 season by setting off fireworks inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall during a September concert led by departing music director Esa-Pekka Salonen. Swiss watchmaker Breguet sponsored the gala, and Special Occasions handled event design and production.

5. Saks Fifth Avenue’s Unforgettable Evening
This event benefits the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund. The February 2008 evening at the Beverly Wilshire honored Hilary Swank, featured a performance by Mary J. Blige, and raised more than $1.5 million.

6. UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Taste for a Cure
This food-centric fund-raiser for cancer research took to the Beverly Wilshire last June. Bon Appétit editor in chief and event co-chair Barbara Fairchild helped select influential vintners and chefs to prepare wine and food for close to 500 guests.

7. Chrysalis Butterfly Ball
This June 2008 event at a private Brentwood home trumped its previous records, attracting more than 800 guests and raising $1.1 million to help homeless individuals find employment. Sponsors included Saks Fifth Avenue, and Smashbox and Jurlique donated gift bags.

8. HollyRod Foundation’s DesignCare Benefit
DesignCare founders Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete helped raise more than $500,000 to support families facing debilitating diseases. The July event included a performance by Maxwell and an Emanuel Ungaro fashion show.

9. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s Dinosaur Ball
The museum’s black-tie biannual fund-raiser returns this year with an “Exploring the Mysteries of Life on Earth” theme, crafted by event producer Timeless Celebrations. The ball is scheduled to take place on April 25.

10. Scripter Award Gala
The USC Libraries Scripter Award honors writers for adapting books into film and took place in the university’s Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on January 20. Proceeds benefit the Doheny Library Preservation Fund.

11. Starlight Foundation Gala
Last year’s gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel raised more than $1 million for seriously ill children. High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu hosted the March 2008 evening, which presented William and Elizabeth Shatner with the nonprofit’s Heart of Gold Award. The 2009 gala will take place March 27.

12. Concern Foundation’s Block Party
For its 35th fund-raiser benefiting cancer research on July 11, the Concern Foundation will return to its long-standing home at Paramount Studios and stick with its block-party formula, which presents guests with more than 50 restaurant stations. Last year’s block party raised $1.5 million.

13. California Science Center’s Discovery Ball
More than 800 guests converged at the Science Center for last year’s 10th annual black-tie fund-raiser, which helped the museum raise more than $1.3 million toward educational programs and exhibits. This year’s ball took place February 7.

14. Fulfillment Fund’s Stars Benefit
Ryan Seacrest hosted this October 2008 benefit at the Beverly Hilton, where more than 800 guests turned out to support the fund, which helps economically disadvantaged youth graduate high school and college.

15. Backstage at the Geffen
For its sixth annual fund-raiser in March 2008, the playhouse raised a record-breaking $575,000. The event drew a sold-out crowd and included performances from honoree Annette Bening and event co-chair Dick Van Dyke.

16. Pasadena Showcase House of Design
This benefit supports a variety of music programs, and draws close to 40,000 visitors to tour a Pasadena home that has been decorated by select designers. The 2009 showcase will run April 19 through May 17.

17. Tiger Woods Foundation Block Party
Held at the Grove of Anaheim, proceeds from this annual benefit go toward the golfer’s eponymous learning center. The October 2008 fund-raiser featured a three-course meal prepared by Mario Batali and a performance by musician Seal.

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