CSUF Grads Organizing O.C. fundraiser for Japan

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CSUF grads organizing O.C. fundraiser for Japan
By SCOTT MARTINDALE
03/12/2011 4:58 PM

FOUNTAIN VALLEY – As Lady McDesmond sat in front of her TV watching coverage of the earthquake in Japan, she knew she couldn't sit back and wait for someone to tell her how she could help.

The 22-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate immediately hopped on Facebook and Twitter to pitch an idea to her friends: Why not hold a fundraiser in Orange County for victims of the disaster?

Within an hour, she had received hundreds of messages from friends and acquaintances interested in the concept – and interested in helping out. That's when she realized that if it was going to happen, she would need to take charge.

"Everyone says, 'Oh, I'm willing to help,' but they just don't know how to help, so nothing gets done," said McDesmond, a social media editor for the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar. "It's so important to act fast. Within an hour, I knew I had to do this fundraiser – I'm thinking about the news cycle and the Twitter cycle. Every week that passes, people will be talking about this less and less."

McDesmond, a Walnut resident, contacted her two best friends from college – Audrey Huynh of Fountain Valley, and Nicole Pierce of Lake Forest – to assemble a core team of volunteers.

Last year, while seniors at Cal State Fullerton, the trio of communications majors threw a fundraiser for victims of the hurricane in Haiti at a bar in Fullerton. Their "Rock Off" fundraiser was attended by about 400 people and netted $2,000 in donations, they said.

They expect the fundraiser for Japan to be bigger.

"It's what we do as a team," said Huynh, 25, co-founder of the public relations firm Elevate PR in Lake Forest. "We're still in an age when it's difficult to get people to become active. We don't just want to do the typical donation. We want to do more."

In less than two days, the young women have begun laying the groundwork for a high-profile community event – tentatively scheduled March 27 – that will feature live music, food, drinks, a raffle and an auction. They hope their splashy fundraiser will raise at least $10,000, ideally $50,000 or more, and attract local athletes, celebrities, philanthropists and prominent business and community leaders.

The Orange County chapter of the American Red Cross will be the designated recipient of the proceeds.

"Orange County has a lot of influence outside the county," McDesmond said. "If we can be the kickoff, maybe we can get other groups to start fundraising, too."

None of the three chief organizers are of Japanese ancestry, although McDesmond has a stepbrother who lives in Japan, as well as a Japanese-American stepfather, while Huynh's father lived in Tokyo for about a decade with an adopted family after fleeing Vietnam.

On Saturday at Huynh's Fountain Valley home, McDesmond and Huynh worked the phones – as well as Facebook and Twitter – trying to line up potential donors and speakers.

By early afternoon, they had secured raffle and auction donations from three local businesses – Walnut-based fitness equipment manufacturer BodyKore, Fullerton-based women's shoe designer Tash Limited, and a comedy club in Burbank and Claremont called Flappers.

They said they hoped to finalize a venue by Monday, and also to secure core donors willing to take care of logistics, including lighting, sound and seating.

Their first choice of venue is a grassy, outdoor quad at South Coast Plaza Village, across the street from South Coast Plaza shopping center in Costa Mesa. Their backup plan is a nightclub in Orange County; a handful of clubs have expressed interest in hosting the fundraiser, McDesmond said.

"I love getting people to care about things," McDesmond said.

"Japan is going to need help. All these people are posting on Facebook and Twitter about how they are praying for Japan. I think that's great, but hopefully they are willing to open their wallet to give money to Japan, too."

Contact the writer: 949-454-7394 or smartindale@ocregister.com

 

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