San Diego’s Charity Ball is the grande dame of fund-raising parties – a formal, black-tie dinner and dance dating back to 1909. Since 1953, the year before the hospital first opened its doors, the Charity Ball has exclusively benefited Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.
This February, The 104th Anniversary Charity Ball, “When You Wish Upon A Star” will benefit the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. In 2012, The 103rd Anniversary Charity Ball, “Spectacular San Diego” benefited Rady Children’s Trauma Care Center at the Sam S. and Rose Stein Emergency Care Center. For more information, click here.
Just as Rady Children’s addresses the needs of a whole family when one of its children is ill, the venerable Charity Ball draws upon the entire Rady Children’s family of donors to make this grand party a success year after year.
Since 1909, The Charity Ball has been an integral part of the social and philanthropic fabric of San Diego. Local families have played significant roles in carrying on the Charity Ball tradition. Familiar San Diego names show up on committee rosters, lists of entertainers and chairs of the event. Many families make a point of kicking off the spring social season with invitations to join them in their “box” adjacent to the dance floor. Society-page coverage of the Charity Ball, its décor and the beautiful gowns are almost as much anticipated as the event itself.
These social columns give a glimpse of San Diego’s past. The Depression years, before the event benefited Rady Children’s, saw women gladly recycling their gowns from previous years. The end of World War II, particularly important to San Diego as a Navy town, saw a “Victory Ball” celebrated in 1946, and United States involvement in the 1991 Gulf War led to hundreds of American flags being incorporated into the Charity Ball décor that year.
Recent themes have included “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “A Magical Merry-Go-Round,” “Over the Rainbow,” “A Teddy Bear Affair,” “Cirque du Coeur” and “What a Wonderful World!” with related whimsical designs.
Since its first formal dinner and dance in 1909, the Charity Ball has always helped kids. The Charity Ball founder, Lena Sefton Clark, led the way, and the first Ball raised $1,570. In those early years, the proceeds supported the infirmary Harriet Lyle Sefton had given to the San Diego Children’s Home. Over the years, the Charity Ball has raised more than $7 million for San Diego’s children. These funds are directly responsible for increasing excellence in patient care through the purchase of equipment, funding of programs and services, and, in 2009 and 2010, helping to ensure the construction of the vitally needed new Acute Care Pavilion.
The incredible success of the Charity Ball has been made possible by thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time and talents.