Tickets were limited to 125 people for the exclusive “Intimate Evening in the Vines,” a unique all-inclusive progressive dinner and entertainment event benefiting Rancho Damacitas Children & Family Services. The event raised over $40,000 for Project Independence, including $12,000 for the Honor Home, a planned five-bedroom home for young adults in transition.
Rob & Trish Shea, community advocates for foster youth, hosted the evening. Trish, an elementary school teacher in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, grew up in the foster care system and was the 2015 winner of the Rancho Damacitas Jim Fullner Visionary Award. Rob was named Teacher of the Year for Vintage Hills Elementary.
Check-in was held at Pechanga Resort & Casino. Hostesses aboard busses provided by Stryder Transportation greeted guests with glasses of Wilson Creek Champagne and gifts of wine charms. Multiple busses transported small groups to the Ponte Family Estate Winery, where they were greeted by the beautiful melodic sounds of the Desert Rose guitar duo – John Carlson and Candace Klie – playing classical and flamenco styled music that reverberated throughout the barrel room.
Excitement was in the air as busloads arrived. They were welcomed by incoming Board Chairwoman, Julie Ngo. Guests then mingled and tasted the sweet white Moscato, the classic Tempranillo, and the robust Montepulciano wines that were served with an unending offering of hors d’ouevres, mini-lamb chops, stuffed figs and ceviche-filled wraps.
While boarding the busses, guests found wrapped treats of chocolate-covered Oreo cookies on their seats provided by Chocolate Forest of Temecula. The groups were then transported to Peltzer Winery on the Calle Contento Trail, where the farm atmosphere blended smoothly with the elegantly chic vintage winery. Accomplished pianist/guitarist/vocalist Brian Stodart entertained the crowd with his eclectic mix of familiar songs from the past four decades. The buffet-style dinner featured tri-tip steak with a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce, barbequed chicken, corn on the cob, sweet cornbread and salad.
Trish Shea recognized the event organizers, donors, supporters and volunteers and then shared why she and Rob support Rancho Damacitas.
“The statistics on foster youth aging out of the foster care system is a grim one. Only 46 percent will obtain their high school diploma, former foster youth are five times more likely to have post traumatic stress disorder, seven times more likely to have a drug dependency and two times more likely to be addicted to alcohol,” she said.
In 2012, Rancho Damacitas started a scholarship program providing educational scholarships to help former foster youth pursue and achieve their educational goals. Shea cited two recent examples; one passing the California nursing assistant program and working in her field and another completing an Information Technology degree at Point Loma.
Cal Winslow, CEO of Rancho Damacitas, explained the need for fundraising for Project Independence: providing programs, resources, and a temporary home for those foster youths who have “aged out” of the traditional system and are transitioning toward independent adulthood. The emancipation program assists with employment readiness, college scholarships and mentorships.
“Fifty percent of former foster youth experience unemployment and homelessness within their first two years after foster care,” Winslow said. “We can help change that.”
Achaia Cain, who had aged out of the foster care system, recounted his personal journey and the need for programs like Project Independence. He now teaches dance to middle school students and is a choreographer at Murrieta Dance Project.
The groups then headed back to the Pechanga Resort & Casino, receiving souvenir wineglasses filled with mints from Wilson Creek Winery. The evening culminated with a comedy show and dessert at Pechanga’s Eagle’s Nest. Dustin Nickerson, 2015 Finalist of San Diego’s Funniest People, and featured on Public Broadcasting Service’s “Comedy Hour,” “Comedy Time TV” and “Rooftop Comedy,” kept people laughing out loud all throughout his private show.
Rancho Damacitas Children & Family Services is a 501(c)(3) whose mission “is to end the cycle of child abuse by providing comprehensive care and compassion for foster children, challenged youth and young adults through life-enriching opportunities and strength-based, solution-focused programs and services.” The organization currently runs six family-style cottages that house 36 foster children, aged 6 to 18. The organization has so far served over 4,000 youth.
For more information or to be a sponsor, go to www.4kidsfirst.org.