Co-chairwomen Sharon Hughes, left, and Kim Thomas, center, along with committee member Crystal Wyatt share a photo op at Direct Relief Women’s sixth annual Mother’s Day Celebration held Saturday at the Montecito home of Carrie Ohly-Cusack and Tom Cusack. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

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iSociety: Rochelle Rose

Direct Relief Women, a Santa Barbara-based, 100-member volunteer group, held its sixth annual Mother’s Day Celebration on Saturday to raise funds to support safe births worldwide by equipping midwives with lifesaving medical supplies.

Since its inception, the program has enabled more than 34,000 safe births. Every $25 makes one safe delivery possible.

Direct Relief estimates that 289,000 women die each year — 800 every day — from preventable complications occurring during pregnancy and childbirth.

Under cloudy, but thankfully rainless, skies, the celebration was held outdoors at the lovely Montecito home of Carrie Ohly-Cusack and Tom Cusack. The nearly 200 guests mingled and enjoyed delicious and healthy hors d’oeuvres passed by National Charity League volunteers.

Beer and wine were donated by Braemar Vintners, Firestone Walker Brewing and the Santa Barbara Vintners Association. Signature margaritas were crafted by “Farm to Bar” mixologist Patrick Reynolds, who was on hand to organize all of the libation stations.

After the reception, guests walked to a larger lawn area that not only featured a large tent for the assembled guests to hear the formal program but also had a birthing tent that is used in places such as Nepal and, more recently, Ecuador. In regions devastated by earthquakes and other natural disasters, safe places are vitally needed for pregnant women who give birth during these crises.

Hosts Tom Cusack and Carrie Ohly-Cusack, center, with Kristi Lupoli, left, and Mary Wiener.

Hosts Tom Cusack and Carrie Ohly-Cusack, center, with Kristi Lupoli, left, and Mary Wiener. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

“We have reached nearly $1 million in funds raised since the start of this Mother’s Day event six years ago,” Millie Barrett, Direct Relief’s director of development, told Noozhawk.

Before Saturday’s event, they had raised $850,000 from all the previous years’ event proceeds.

The featured speaker, the Rev. Rick Frechette, regional director of St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, a Direct Relief partner organization that provides maternal and child health services in Haiti, was unable to attend due to a motorcycle accident.

Instead, Andrew MacCalla, Direct Relief’s director of emergency response and international programs, shared stories about his work to improve the health of mothers and children in Haiti, as well as throughout Africa and Asia. Wynn Walent, assistant national director of the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, was also present at the event. The evening included presentations by Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief.

Event sponsors included Alamo Self Storage, BlueStar Parking, Deckers Brands, Dr. Ayesha Shaikh of the Santa Barbara OB/GYN Medical Center, Hayashida & Associates Physical Therapy, HUB International Insurance Services Inc., Tracy and Michael Bollag, Rose Story Farm, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, South Coast Emergency Medical Group, Susan Burns Associates/Coldwell Banker Previews International, Turner Medical Arts, Wyatt Technology, and many others.

Event co-chairs Kim Thomas and Sharon Hughes were assisted by committee members Sherri Ball, Ann Bankhead, Amelia Carleton, Misha Cooper, Christy Calder, Maggie Catbagan, Carolyn Chandler, Kira Fay, Stacey Fell, Beth Green, Marisa Grimes, Barbara Hage, Caroline Harrah, Julie Hayashida, Candy Hedrick, Pat Kelley, Anne Kratz, Leslie Lundgren, Kristin McWilliams, Laura Pomerantz, Elizabeth Raith, Carrie Randolph, Dana Seltzer, Christina Stoney, Amy Tharakan, Brooke Tiller, Kelly Walker, Sue Wang, Mary Wiener, Sandra Williams, Maureen Wooten, Crystal Wyatt and Dr. Susan Zapalac.

Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical aid to people in need in the United States and around the world, with a particular commitment to saving the lives of mothers and children before, during and after childbirth. This includes preventing mother-to-child transmissions of HIV, ensuring safe deliveries by providing midwives with essential supplies, increasing access to emergency care when complications occur, and restoring the health and lives of women through obstetric fistula repair.

Click here for more information about Direct Relief, visit 27 S. La Patera Lane in Santa Barbara, or call 805.964.4767. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at This article includes reportinf Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.