Friday, April 20 , 2018, 6:03 am | Fair 47º

 
 
 
 

‘Birds and Bees Sextennial Bash’ Celebrates 100 Years of Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood “Birds and Bees Sextennial Bash” Planning Committee members and sponsors, from left, Carrie Towbes, Charlotte Brownlee, Kristen Klingbeil-Weis and board member Leslie Bhutani. Click to view larger
The Planned Parenthood “Birds and Bees Sextennial Bash” Planning Committee members and sponsors, from left, Carrie Towbes, Charlotte Brownlee, Kristen Klingbeil-Weis and board member Leslie Bhutani. (Lorraine DarConte photo)

In the strongest outpouring of support in its history, the California Central Coast affiliate of Planned Parenthood welcomed nearly 600 guests to the Bacara Spa & Resort on April 29 to celebrate 100 years of Planned Parenthood.

And the significant numbers didn’t stop there.

The “Birds and Bees Sextennial Bash” netted more than $450,000 for the local chapter, a record-breaking success, with $111,000 raised in just 15 minutes thanks to an immediate gift texting option and a $100,000 match from Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin.

Though unable to attend, Weinman and Heavin pledged $100,000 to support the organization’s Fight Back Fund, which aims to protect and defend the work of Planned Parenthood, ensuring the doors stay open, no matter what. This fund was started with a visionary $1.6 million gift from Judy and Jack Staplemann, who were also key sponsors of this year’s bash.

Additional funds were raised through auction, sponsorships and raffle ticket sales.

“Along the Central Coast, we are experiencing a groundswell of support like nothing we have ever seen,” said Jenna Tosh, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood California Central Coast. “Our supporters are making it clear that despite the incessant attacks, we will prevail. Since election day, we have welcomed over 3,000 new donors, 40 percent of whom are 20 to 40 years of age.”

This is a promising sign that the next generation is awake and ready to take the lead in the fight for reproductive rights.

Bash attendees Leila Cook and Dr. Cris Shepard.
Bash attendees Leila Cook and Dr. Cris Shepard. (Lauren Conley photo)

The most moving portion of the evening came when five women spoke personally about their experiences with Planned Parenthood.

“When you think of women who use contraception while they pursue their education, you can think of me. When you think of women who can’t afford insurance and receive cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, you can think of me. And when you think of women whose lives are saved by Planned Parenthood, you can think of me,“ said Laura, a 26-year-old patient who noticed a lump in her breast that the clinic screened and diagnosed.

Ada, Emmaly, Michelle and Jaymee (last names omitted for privacy) also shared their emotional stories, yet the common thread among all these women was how welcomed and not judged they felt at Planned Parenthood. These women represent just five of the 35,000 women and men who are served in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Thousand Oaks, receiving high quality, affordable reproductive care. The impact of these five health centers is measurable — preventing more than 5,000 unintended pregnancies every year, and ultimately saving the health care system $30 million annually.

This was the third year of the Birds and Bees branded bash, which was conceptualized in 2014 to celebrate 50 years of the local affiliate. Before that, PPCCC hosted a small annual dinner until longtime board member Leslie Bhutani led the charge to turn the intimate dinners into larger affairs.

The Planned Parenthood 100th celebration attracted a young crowd, including Annie Weis, left, Sam Sheetz and Dena Slaff.
The Planned Parenthood 100th celebration attracted a young crowd, including Annie Weis, left, Sam Sheetz and Dena Slaff. (Lorraine DarConte photo)

This year’s event was put in the capable and intentionally younger hands of Amy Baird, Amy Holbrook and Wendy Wheeler Smith, who brought youthfulness (along with a pink glow) to the event, introducing the after-hours dance party, which enabled more people to attend at a lower ticket price.

Event sponsors included Leslie and Ashish Bhutani, Dr. Jeffrey Block and Liz Hahn-Block, Amanda Rowen, Judy and Jack Stapelman, Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin, Marc Appleton and Joanna Kerns, Lucie Greer, John Temple Jr., and Kristen Klingbeil-Weis and Karl Weis. Geoff Green served as entertaining and effective emcee.

Though the gala numbers are impressive, Tosh reminded the audience of the serious concerns and unpredictable nature of the Trump administration.

“As we begin our second century, Planned Parenthood finds itself in the fight of its life as the new administration and Congress have pledged to discredit, defund and destroy Planned Parenthood,” he said.

Tosh talked about the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule which is denying family planning aid to the most impoverished countries around the world, and expressed concern over Neil Gorsuch’s appointment, given his “abominable” record on women’s health care.

The need to support Planned Parenthood doesn’t end with the gala. Click here to learn more or to make a donation.

— Ann Pieramici is a publicist representing Planned Parenthood California Central Coast.

The “Birds and Bees Sextennial Bash” Planning Committee. Click to view larger
The “Birds and Bees Sextennial Bash” Planning Committee. (Lorraine DarConte photo)
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