Voices for Children’s “Starry Starry Night” gala returns Sept. 24 to the San Diego Polo Club in Rancho Santa Fe, and this year’s event co-chairs have a particularly close connection to the cause.
Del Mar residents Nancy and David Doyle have been longtime supporters of Voices for Children, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supervises volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). CASAs advocate for the rights and well-being of children living in San Diego County’s foster care system.
“It gives us a chance to say how much Voices for Children means to us,” Nancy Doyle said about co-chairing the event.
Nancy can speak about the important role of CASAs firsthand because she once served as a CASA volunteer.
Nancy learned about the foster care system in San Diego and Los Angeles counties through her career, and later through her work with Voices for Children. She is a former teacher who served at the San Diego Juvenile Court and Community Schools. She also served as a commissioner on the San Diego Juvenile Justice Commission and as a member of the San Diego County Grand Jury.
Beginning in 2005, Nancy became a CASA, working with an 18-month-old boy in Los Angeles.
“It really was because of your insight and advocacy that he was adopted,” David said.
“Any CASA would have done what I did,” Nancy insisted.
In just 18 months, Tommy had been in five foster homes and had six social workers. Nancy recalled visiting him in the mornings.
“He had no interest in me whatsoever,” she remembered.
“But CASAs always come back and they never let that stop them,” added Nancy’s longtime friend Anne Farrell, chief philanthropy officer of Voices for Children.
Nancy later discovered that Tommy had no interest in anybody in the morning. And, unfortunately, that’s when potential foster and adoptive parents visited him.
After making a new rule that Tommy would only see visitors after noon, the little boy showed interest in the very first person who stopped by for a visit. And during a second visit with the same man, Tommy started talking.
“I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” said Nancy, whose eyes filled with tears during an interview at her Del Mar home.
That man officially became Tommy’s father about two years later. Nancy attended the adoption ceremony.
Today, Tommy is a happy and healthy 12-year-old boy.
“Any CASA would see that. It was so obvious,” Nancy said about Tommy being particularly fussy in the morning. “But a social worker wouldn’t see it because there had been so many.”
There are 960 CASA programs nationwide. Founded in 1980, Voices for Children is the third largest CASA program in the country.
Voices for Children has 1,500 CASAs. With funds from fundraisers like Starry Starry Night, the organization aims to have more than 1,800 CASAs provide advocacy to more than 3,000 children, and also review the case files of the more than 5,100 children who pass through foster care in San Diego County every year.
“CASAs save lives every single day,” Farrell said.
Nancy served as a CASA throughout Tommy’s adoption process until 2008.
In 2006, she moved to Del Mar with David. The Doyles will celebrate their nine-year wedding anniversary in September.
From 2008 to 2014, Nancy voluntarily reviewed files for Voices for Children’s Case Assessment program. She has served on the organization’s board of directors since 2015. And now, she and her husband are co-chairing the 14th annual Starry Starry Night gala.
“Voices for Children is something that I’m very proud to be associated with, and I think our community, if it was more aware, would be extremely proud,” said David Doyle, who has practiced law since 1976. He is a partner with Morrison & Foerster, LLP, one of the sponsors of Starry Starry Night.
“You can count on one hand the areas in which this city is in the top three in the country,” he said. “This is one.”
Taking place under the stars, Starry Starry Night is Voices for Children’s signature fundraising event.
Over 14 years, the gala has grown from an intimate event in a private home to a community event grossing more than $1 million in each of the past four years. All net proceeds help Voices for Children recruit volunteers from throughout the community, train them to the highest professional standard, and then match them with foster children who need their advocacy services.
More than 340 people attended last year’s gala, which grossed a record-breaking $1.37 million. Event organizers anticipate about 400 people this year and hope to raise at least $1.3 million to support Voices for Children.
Voices for Children almost entirely relies on contributions from the community. Last year, Farrell said the organization received 3 percent of its budget from the government and 97 percent from private individuals, private foundations and companies.
“You have to have money to recruit CASAs, train CASAs and, most importantly, supervise CASAs,” Farrell said. “Every CASA has a fulltime staff person at their beck and call 24/7.”
This year’s gala will honor the beauty of the ocean and the starry skies of the South Pacific, inspired by the Doyles’ honeymoon to Fiji.
The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour featuring mixology cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a 7 p.m. gourmet dinner crafted by Chef Andrew Spurgin and catered by Culinary Concepts. The event will also include a live auction and dancing, with an after-party at 9:30 p.m. featuring drinks, music and sweet delicacies.
“The Voices for Children community, or very large family, is a tremendous group of people,” David said. “We’re very excited about the event.”
Lunar VIP Tickets are $1,000 per person or $10,000 for a table of 10. These tickets offer premium seating and other special benefits. Stellar Tickets are $500 per person or $5,000 for a table of 10.
For more about Starry Starry Night or to purchase tickets, visit www.speakupnow.org/starry-starry-night. To inquire about sponsorship opportunities, contact Sheila Owens, special events manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 858-598-2261.
For more about Voices for Children, visit www.speakupnow.org.