A Cause Taken to Heart

The Sequoia Ballroom at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa was filled with Alpha Phi girls decked out in red dresses to celebrate and entertain their guests, including friends, family, affiliated Greeks from various fraternities and sponsors who donated to the auction.


On Saturday, Feb. 25, The Eta Kappa Chapter of Alpha Phi presented their Red Dress Gala that they had been preparing for all year.


“It’s not just something that we go to, it’s something we participate in.” said Hannah Ouellette, Director of Philanthropy who was in charge of the Red Dress Gala this year.


“This is our pride and joy,” said Loni Drucker, President of the Eta Kappa Chapter of Alpha Phi, who stayed up late with her sisters to assemble baskets for the event.


Those nights added up to 75 baskets donated to the auction by some of the girls themselves, as well as by other fraternities and local businesses.


From $20,000 raised in 2008 to a running total of $53,000 in its sixth year, Alpha Phi’s Red Dress Gala has come a long way since Cat Moore’s original vision.


Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa treated the Alpha Phi event with the class it deserved and with the magic only Disney could provide with custom-made heart-shaped soufflés made exclusively for the Red Dress Gala.


To start off the live auction, the famous auctioneer, Jim Nye, auctioned off a 50-cent red dress pin that went for $1,000 just to show that the sorority and guests were not there for the prizes they were winning, but for the support of women’s cardiac health.


“We would never have a gala without him,” Ouellette said.

From a Kindle and a dog to luxurious outings like Arrowhead and Tahoe weeklong cabin stays, the sorority brought together valuable prizes with a determination to raise funds for a good cause.


“I am even more stoked that the donations go to a good cause,” Nikki Khorram said after winning the weeklong Arrowhead Cabin Trip.


An impressive original Walt Disney painting with certificate of authenticity ran for $1,200. Even more special to the guests was the beautiful quilt that Alpha Phi alumna, Diana Montenegro, made, which auctioned off for $1,200.


The special auction game was called “33 33 33,” for which the guests bought raffle tickets and 33 percent went to the winner, another 33 percent to the Alpha Phi Foundation, and the last 33 percent went to the Leukemia Foundation in honor of a late sister of Alpha Phi.


However, it was Jim Nye’s final game, called “Raise Your Paddle” that created a community effort among all of the guests. By the end of the night, when Nye asked for donations from the guests of down to $20, everyone was raising their paddles and the Sequoia Ballroom became a sea of paddles excitedly waving.


Aaron Young is usually hired by Alpha Phi to cover their events, but he donated his time and effort to taking pictures throughout the Red Dress Gala as his own contribution to the good cause.


“I think the cause is a worthy one and I look forward to helping out more next year,”  said Chris Ries of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter at UC Irvine.


Alpha Phi was one of the first sororities to establish its own foundation in 1956. The Alpha Phi Foundation also helps sisters in need with the Forget-me-not Fund, which supports members academically by providing scholarships.


Drucker, the current chapter president of the Eta Kappa chapter of Alpha Phi, was proud to make notice of the awards that Alpha Phi had won at the 2012 UC Irivine Greek Awards on Monday, Feb. 27: Excellence in Membership Recruitment and Best Philanthropic Event, which recognized the $40,000 Alpha Phi earned at their 2011 Red Dress Gala.


The awards that the Eta Kappa Chapter won at the Alpha Phi International’s biannual convention include Second Highest Fundraising Chapter, Most Outstanding Recruitment and third-Most Funds in the Region. What the girls were most excited about was that Alpha Phi Eta Kappa Chapter was qualified as one of five chapters for the most prestigious award, the Order of the Lamp.


Before the Red Dress Gala, Alpha Phi hosted the Mr. Heartthrob Pageant, this year earning over $5,000. In the winter, they hosted the Heart Healthy campus wide, along with the concert promotes the Red Gala Even more.


But the philanthropy does not stop with Red Dress Gala. Rather, the most anticipated event of the year for these girls is a catalyst for the other volunteer activities they participate in. Ouellette is looking forward to hosting a luncheon for the American Heart Association at the Balboa Bay Club soon.

“Hannah Ouellette, director of philanthropy and Anaselia Galli, did a fabulous job!” said Kelly Yocca, a UCI alumna who hosted the Red Dress Gala two years in a row.


Like Cat Moore, all of the Alpha Phi girls have been inspired by Yocca. The amount of people who attended has grown so much that the past venues at beachfront Hyatt hotels in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach were at maximum capacity.