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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 5th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 48

Hobnobbing with Helen

Special Olympics golfer Paul Hoffman, Santa Maria Recreation and Parks’ Rudy Gutierrez, and Special Olympics runner Stephanie Cantu chatted about athletics at the Special Olympics fundraiser “Disco Nights” on Feb. 1 at the Veterans Memorial Building.

Well, dear readers, who would have thunk it?

The Special Olympics fundraiser held on Feb. 1 at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Maria was very, very special—more special than I had anticipated.

Why so much enthusiasm on my part?

First and foremost, it is very difficult to take a large space that accommodates more than 200 and turn it into an attractive venue.

The retro theme was “Disco Nights.” The decorating crew turned overhead lights into chandeliers. A huge revolving globe hung from the middle light fixture. Awesome. The room looked terrific!

Secondly, there were great wines from Cambria and Byron (also served with dinner) and mixed drinks.

Drinks were included in the $125 ticket price. An additional $75 “gratuity” was suggested. Most people sent the extra $75 in with ticket requests, and many sent more than the suggested amount.  

Dinner, catered by Testa, was, of course, wonderful: prime rib, chicken cordon bleu, or vegetarian squash with baked potato, vegetables, salad, and Baked Alaska (ice cream with a meringue topping).

Cindy Hoskins of the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, was in charge of this affair, which raises money for Special Olympics athletics programs.  

Among the 230 guests were John Will, Jim and Ann Rigali, Franziska Shepard, Bob Engel, Sheriff Bill Brown and wife Donna, and Carol Reiner from the Marian Foundation board.

Santa Maria Police Department’s Nate Totorica and his wife, Victoria, looked very ’70s in his huge frizzy wig.

Peggy Blough gave me a heads up on a fundraiser for CALM, to be held in April at the Country Club.

Sandy and Rob Buchanan celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary by volunteering to serve at this dinner. To commemorate the occasion, Rob and Sandy provided Champagne for the folks at their table, all of whom were colleagues of Rob’s at Hub International Insurance.

City Council member Teri Zuniga (also a volunteer server) had no Champagne, but she was bubbly with glee.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” she asked me. “I love volunteering for this event.”

Sean Barca and Joey Halsell (back row, left to right) met up with Joey’s grandmother, Margie Halsell (from row right), and Sandy Carty at “Disco Nights.”

George and Pam Risher, Sheri and Bob Nathan, and Frank and Scotti Ortiz were three of the many couples circulating during cocktail hour.

Of course, there were Halsells galore in attendance, including Joey Halsell, who coaches softball for Special Olympics.

Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada welcomed the group and was followed by St. Joe’s Father Ed, who gave the invocation.

After dinner, the dance floor immediately filled up as the band Steppin’ Out did
their thing.

The very popular photo booth let guests have four fast photos taken, which then popped out of a side vent. Hats and big sunglasses and fun accessories were available to make the photo taking more fun.

Christina Martens and Phillip Simco were wine stewards.

Tahir and Sabra Masood, Laurie and Jeff Tamura, and Christine and daughter Mia Mollenkopf were other duos.

Volunteer Enid Kelly-Oman was the cheerful server at my table.  

“I love this,” Enid told me. “Helping Special Olympics is a really important thing to do.” 

I had a lovely chat with Santa Maria’s penultimate hobnobber, Dr. Dennis
Shepard. When we bump into each other, he almost always gives me a short tutorial on some medical condition. Inquiring minds want to know. I am always glad to encounter him and learn.


If you want to hobnob with Helen, you may contact her at

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