Voices for Children aims for the stars with Sept. 19 gala

The “Starry Starry Night” gala benefits Voices for Children. Photo courtesy Tim Hardy.
The “Starry Starry Night” gala benefits Voices for Children. Photo courtesy Tim Hardy.

Voices for Children’s “Starry Starry Night” gala returns Sept. 19 to the San Diego Polo Club in Rancho Santa Fe.

With the theme “When You Wish Upon a Star,” organizers hope the 13th annual event will raise awareness and funds so that the wishes of San Diego County’s foster children come true.

“Children are our future,” said Del Mar’s Stephanie Bergsma, who is co-chairing the event with her husband, Dwight Hare. “If you don’t take care of them and make sure they’re educated and have a decent upbringing, it’s hopeless.”

Dwight Hare and Stephanie Bergsma. Courtesy photo

Bergsma and Hare have been married and have lived in Del Mar for nine years.

Bergsma got involved with Voices for Children, a San Diego-based nonprofit that recruits, trains and supervises volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), through her work with KPBS, San Diego’s public radio and television station.

Originally from Minnesota, Bergsma studied art history at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. In 2013, she retired as associate general manager of KPBS, where she worked for 30 years.

Bergsma has been involved in a variety of organizations in San Diego, including the boards of Francis Parker School, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Pediatric Diabetes Research Center at UC San Diego.

Bergsma learned about Voices of Children through KPBS when it sponsored the nonprofit’s gala.

She has served on the board of directors for Voices of Children since 2013. She previously served on the development committee and now serves on the governance committee.

“Voices for Children makes an incredible impact on the lives of so many basically abandoned children,” Bergsma said. “I’ve seen that they really make a difference.”

To make an event bigger difference, she and Hare signed on as event co-chairs of this year’s gala.

“They do so much for so many. It’s remarkable,” said Bergsma, who also serves on the advisory council at KPBS and the advisory committee for the radio show, “A Way with Words.” “It’s the only organization of its kind in San Diego, which is even more important.”

CASAs provide one-on-one advocacy to children living in San Diego County’s foster care system.

Voices for Children’s 1,800 CASA volunteers will provide advocacy for 3,000 foster children this year. Over the course of a year, 5,000 to 5,100 children are in foster care in the county, and about 3,400 at any one time. As the only agency in the county designated by the courts to provide CASA volunteers, Voices for Children aims to “Serve Every Child” and provide every foster child who needs one with a CASA volunteer.

“I’m impressed by the way that they coordinate with the legal system,” said Hare, who has more than 30 years of experience in software development and is chief software architect at Parity Computing, where he has worked for seven years.

“The legal system depends on the CASAs and the CASAs depend on the legal system. That gives the CASAs a formal role,” he added. “Both sides depend on the other to help these kids.”

Taking place under the stars, “Starry Starry Night” is Voices for Children’s signature fundraising event.

Over 13 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 three 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 $1.36 million.

“They did exceptionally well last year, so we would love to do even better,” Bergsma said.

Hare added, “We want people to have a good time.”

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour featuring mixologists from Snake Oil Cocktail Company, followed by a gourmet dinner by Executive Chef Andrew Spurgin, a live auction and dancing. The evening concludes with drinks, music and sweet delicacies in the after-party lounge.

Lunar VIP Tickets are $1,000 per person or $10,000 for a table of 10. These tickets offer premium seating, an upgraded menu, plus an invitation to a post-event gathering. Stellar Tickets are $500 per person or $5,000 for a table of 10.

For more about Voices for Children, visit www.speakupnow.org.

For more about Starry Starry Night or to purchase tickets, visit www.speakupnow.org/starry-starry-night.

To inquire about honorary committee membership, sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, call 858-598‑2222 or email events@speakupnow.org.


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