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CADA Celebrates ‘Havana Night in Paradise’ at 28th Annual Amethyst Ball

The fundraiser, benefitting youth programs of the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, pays tribute to guest of honor Debby Davison

Amethyst Ball honoree Debby Davison, second from left, with co-chairs Joyce Dudley, Anne Smith Towbes and Gerd Jordano. The 28th annual fundraiser benefitted the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Amethyst Ball honoree Debby Davison, second from left, with co-chairs Joyce Dudley, Anne Smith Towbes and Gerd Jordano. The 28th annual fundraiser benefitted the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

The Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara was alive with glamour and generosity last Saturday at the 28th annual Amethyst Ball “Havana Night in Paradise” fundraiser benefiting youth programs of the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and honoring Debby Davison.

The evening highlighted the thousands of teens whose lives have been changed by CADA’s Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Center. The event also honored a special community member with a large outpouring of emotion and support. 

The nonprofit organization was established in 1949 by a small group of Santa Barbara citizens who met with Marty Mann, the first women to achieve sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, to discuss alcoholism in Santa Barbara. As a result, the assembly formed the Santa Barbara Committee on Alcoholism and opened its first treatment clinic, the Alcoholism Information Center on Anacapa Street, in 1950.

Although the organization changed its name to the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in 1986, its objective remains the same: to build a safer, healthier community by preventing and treating alcoholism and drug abuse in Santa Barbara County through a series of education and public outreach programs in an effort to battle the disease and raise public awareness.

The word amethyst is from the Greek meaning “without drunkenness,” and a VIP reception commenced at 6 p.m. on the Coral Casino’s seaside terrace as the space quickly filled to capacity with guests donned in attire reminiscent of the festive theme.

Guests mingled and surveyed hundreds of silent auction items lined along tables before guests flowed into the ballroom adorned with murals created by five student artists who shared their interpretation of the “Havana Night in Paradise” theme that were lit up courtesy of SHINE Lighting in and oasis created by John Daly.

Live music by Somos Son accompanied diners who settled down to enjoy a scrumptious meal courtesy of the Biltmore’s culinary chefs at tables adorned with exotic floral centerpieces by SR Hogue.

Co-chairs and longtime friends Gerd Jordano, Anne Smith Towbes and Joyce Dudley gathered to pay tribute to the evening’s guest of honor as each speaker emphasized a facet of Davison’s character.

Davison has dedicated 13 years of service to CADA’s board with a focus on the Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Center. She worked at the KEYT anchor desk from 1990 until retiring in 2006 and co-anchored KTLA’s News at 10 in Los Angeles, winning many awards, including four Emmys, seven Golden Mikes and numerous Associated Press Awards.

Davison broadcast the Summit for Danny International Climb live from the Canadian Arctic in 2000, and she also participated in a very challenging hike in Ecuador in 2006. Currently she is in preparation for her third international climb in New Zealand set to leave in March.

The ballroom was gripped in admiration as Davison shared with the crowd that the upcoming climb in New Zealand is something else to mark off her bucket list as she bravely battles Stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer.

District Attorney Dudley met Davison on a local Summit for Danny climb 15 years ago and points to the honorees, “passion for our community, her friends, family and fun that makes her so special, as well as her intelligence, integrity, energy and commitment.”

Dudley, who is known for a strong commitment to defending victims of abuse and is an advocate for children in the community, has been actively involved in CADA’s Summit for Danny Climbs and the Fighting Back Mentor Program and chairs the steering committee.

Jordano has served on numerous boards, including Hospice of Santa Barbara, CALM and the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, and was winner of the Santa Barbara Woman of the Year Award in 2010 and selected Woman of the Year by state Sen. Jack O’Connell in 2000.

Davison’s contributions and commitment to her friends and the community were shared with Noozhawk by Jordano.

“Debby is an amazing friend, and she’s always there for the people that she calls friends. I feel so honored to have her in my life,” Jordano said. “She means so much to this community because she’s always donated and contributed so much of her time, and we all just value her for the person that she is. She just reaches out to so many people and we all benefit from it.”

Towbes was a one-time co-owner of KEYT and over the last 23 years has devoted her life to community service and philanthropy.

A fun and unique portion of the evening was a musical “de-composing” of Barry Manilow’s hit “Copacabana,” written and produced by Erin Graffy de Garcia performed by the Debbyettes, including Towbes and other prominent community members — Caryl Wray, Catherine Remak, Graffy de Garcia, Mary Ellen Tiffany, Penny Jenkins, Rosanne Marquis, Shannon Muller and Susan Neuman.

Towbes began the Debbyettes performance with lines such as, “She was a news gal and ev’rything that she would see she’d report on channel three,” and “she made a great emcee; she worked all night for free, she looks good and she sounds terrific.”

The Conga Boys — Ed Stonefelt, John Daly, Terry Ryken and Jim Neuman — also performed with men’s costumes by Denise Caracas and headdresses for the women by Arlene Larsen.

The Fighting Back Mentor Program includes trained adult mentors providing confidential counseling and prevention education for students in fourth to eighth grade attending Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta secondary schools. Equally important is the Fighting Back Parent Program, an educational interactive program aimed to help parents communicate with adolescent’s ages 10 to 18.

Additionally, the Teen Court Program is designed to keep kids out of the criminal justice system, and the Youth Service System utilizes trained youth service specialists to provide a continuum of prevention and intervention programs and services on local junior high and high school campuses, as well as the Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Center, where youths ages 12 to 18 years can find treatment and counseling for drugs and alcoholism.

CADA provides a wide range of adult treatment, prevention, intervention programs and on-site treatment centers, including the Project Recovery Treatment Center, Adult Outpatient Treatment and the Perinatal Treatment Program, which assists pregnant women and parents of both genders with substance abuse issues, and Court Mandated Treatment Programs.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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