El Segundo boasts the second-oldest auxiliary group in existence supporting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. In 2020, the group turned 100.
By Maureen Kingsley with Beth Muraida
A century ago, in 1920, just three years after the incorporation of the city of El Segundo, employees of Standard Oil Company (now Chevron) and their spouses gathered for card parties and garden-plant sales to raise money for what was then the newly established Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). The group enjoyed this social and philanthropic endeavor so much that they formally organized—under El Segundo resident and Standard Oil employee Harriet Lawler—and became officially sanctioned as the El Segundo Auxiliary Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 1920. The nonprofit group has remained active ever since. Last year, it celebrated its Centennial.
During the auxiliary’s early years, its members helped transport patients and their families to the hospital for procedures. Eventually membership grew beyond oil-company employees and their families to include friends and other community members who wanted to be part of the support effort. Early fundraising activities included Christmas parties, doll fairs, home and garden tours, fashion shows, themed dances—really all manner of fun social events, always with raising funds for and awareness of the hospital as the goals. Many of these events were held on the Standard Oil Company grounds.
Much more recently, an annual wine festival with silent auction has become one of the auxiliary’s most popular fundraisers. The event is traditionally held every September at International Garden Center and Floral Design on PCH—with a year off in 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The wine festival has been financially very successful thanks to the support of the El Segundo community and its neighbors. “We are on our 16th festival,” adds auxiliary member Beth Muraida. “We have really grown.”
The Jewelry Source, a longstanding Downtown El Segundo business owned by Brenda Newman, hosts an auxiliary fund-raising event every other year, coordinated with 42-year member Carol Wingate’s help, at which Brenda raffles off a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. Proceeds from the raffle-ticket sales, as well as from the sales of other jewelry, are donated to CHLA, where Brenda’s late business partner and beloved friend, Roanne Mahony, brought her infant daughter for treatment decades ago. The Jewelry Source party is always popular and well-attended, with refreshments, beverages, and hospitality to spare. 2020’s Jewelry Source event was a much smaller, more tightly controlled affair, but it remained a philanthropic success. Of The Jewelry Source’s long tradition of fundraising for El Segundo Auxiliary CHLA, which began in 1997, Brenda says, “It was a natural continuation for our young business to contribute,” as it was a cause so dear to Roanne. “It continues to this day and will continue into the future,” she adds.
In addition to raising funds, the El Segundo Auxiliary stands ready to assist CHLA in other ways. It recently, for example, gathered 1,800 pounds of Play-Doh modeling clay for patients and siblings going to the hospital. In the lead-up to the winter holidays, the organization collects new pajamas for the patients to wear when they leave the hospital.
“The hospital calls on us for specific things,” confirms member Carol, “such as snacks for nurses monthly.” Carol also points to the auxiliary’s super-successful “red wagon project,” for which another longtime member, JoAnn Richman, contacted the Chicago-based vice-president of Radio Flyer in the late 1990s to procure around 35 to 40 red wagons for CHLA to use in place of wheelchairs and gurneys. “The idea was to make the experience of being transported on wheels less frightening and more fun for patients,” JoAnn explains. JoAnn coordinated the endeavor, including the transport of the wagons from Chicago to Southern California via a friend’s Phoenix-based trucking business and the actual assembly of the wagons themselves. “Red wagons remain in use by CHLA patients today,” JoAnn says with pride of the massively successful project.
Additional pages of photos and memorabilia from JoAnn Richman's Auxiliary scrapbook
Deeply Personal Connections
For many current and past members of the El Segundo Auxiliary, CHLA occupies a very personal place in their hearts. Twenty-year auxiliary member Beth Muraida, for instance, has a son with cerebral palsy who has been a CHLA patient. “He had a doctor through his local clinic that would come from Children’s Hospital and see his progress,” Beth explains. “That doctor did 7-item surgery on him when he was 15. He was amazing, the hospital was amazing. We’d go back for therapy...this all made me feel closer to the hospital” and was a big part of her decision to join the El Segundo Auxiliary, she says.
Marisa Scarda, owner of Natural Simplicity flower shop here in town and whom Beth calls “a huge key to the group’s success,” says she joined the auxiliary for her godson. “He had a brain tumor the size of an orange,” Marisa shares. “He was diagnosed and received surgery at CHLA, and he is now doing great.” Marisa adds that the El Segundo auxiliary members are “wonderful” and that the community has really come through over the years with “overwhelming support and donations.”
Anne Sikking was a patient herself at CHLA in the 1950s. “I am a survivor of a complex congenital disorder,” she says. “The CHLA staff not only undertook eight life-saving operations on me as an infant, they did it all for under a $1 a day, since my single mother [from El Segundo] was working a day job, a night job, and a weekend job in order to pay for my care.
“Of course, as the beneficiaries, my mother and I are perennially in their debt,” Anne continues, “but so is society at large. Every positive outcome from the work of CHLA ripples throughout the community.”
The Future Looks Bright
The El Segundo Auxiliary, like other philanthropic organizations, has been hit by the pandemic, but its members continue to meet monthly—mainly via Zoom—to plan for the future. There will always be children in the hospital needing the support that the auxiliary can provide, Beth explains. The organization is in need of new members to plan and execute more fundraisers and enjoy the friendships that are forged along the way. Readers are encouraged to visit the El Segundo Auxiliary's website for more information or to contact any of the auxiliary members quoted in this story.
The El Segundo Scene thanks Beth Muraida, Carol Wingate, and JoAnn Richman for their contributions to this story.
This story appears in the February 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.