With many Santa Barbara residents still feeling the emotional impacts of our recent disasters, coming together to support Santa Barbara Channelkeeper at its 18th annual Blue Water Ball felt like a poignant moment and another critical part of the healing process.
More than 250 guests gathered under the rotunda at Deckers Brands in Goleta on April 28 for the festivities. The event was organized and executed with panache by event co-chairwomen Holly Alper and Cris Prichard and their event committee: Kelly Clause, Nancy Hussey, Katelynn, Valerie Powdrell, Julie Ringler and Carla Tomson.
After cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres; wine donated by Brander, Dierberg and Melville vineyards and Summerland Winery; and a silent auction, guests sat down to dinner by chef Ed Huante of Guckenheimer.
Channelkeeper executive director Kira Redmond cited some of the recent accomplishments of the nonprofit organization and its mission to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds.
Highlights included collecting soil samples and initiating daily testing for beach bacteria after the dumping of Montecito’s mud on Carpinteria and Goleta beaches, and immediately sharing the results and impacts with the public.
Another notable achievement was helping to secure funding — through the generosity of Nora and Michael Hurley — to help cap a leaking legacy oil well off Summerland Beach. Channelkeeper worked successfully with oil spill response agencies to update and strengthen contingency planning for the region, and promoted awareness, stewardship, and recreational and eco-tourism benefits of marine protected areas.
One of Channelkeeper’s most important goals is educating local youth. In 2017, the organization taught 2,500 children about watersheds, marine science and pollution prevention. The lessons were learned in classrooms and on field trips, as well as through “Seafari” ocean education classes led by Penny Owens, the education community outreach director.
Actor, surfer and environmentalist Gregory Harrison was the emcee for the event, which raised more than $190,000 for the cause.
“My whole life I’ve enjoyed the surfing, diving and sailing that these local waters provide, and I am determined to provide the same opportunity for my children, grandchildren and future generations,” he said.
Shaun Tomson, a world champion surfer and Channelkeeper advocate, noted Santa Barbara’s importance to the environmental movement, which can be traced to the 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel.
“The Blue Water Ball celebrates Channelkeeper and our community environmentalists dedicated to making sure history does not repeat itself,” he told Noozhawk.
Montecito-based filmmaker Mimi Armstrong deGruy was the evening’s keynote speaker. With her late husband, underwater filmmaker Mike deGruy, she produced numerous hours of award-winning television and other broadcast projects.
Blue Water Ball guests were treated to sneak peeks of her latest project, Diving Deep, a documentary to be released this summer celebrating Mike deGruy and his mission to save the oceans.
“While it took me a while to go back into the edit room to produce Diving Deep, I wanted to share Mike’s legacy as a storyteller and filmmaker,” she said.
Mike deGruy — an acclaimed cinematographer as well as a dad and Santa Barbara Middle School parent — was killed in a 2012 helicopter crash in Australia while scouting locations for a documentary project.
His enthusiasm and irrepressible curiosity jumped right off the large video screens at Deckers. His widow told the audience that after meeting him, “I began to see the ocean through his eyes.”
“It gave me a greater appreciation for, not only its beauty, but the necessity of a healthy ocean, which encouraged me to support and to speak here tonight for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper,” deGruy said.
Afterward, she described what the evening — and the project — meant to her.
“When I stood up on the stage and looked out at the audience, I felt such warmth and goodness, knowing everyone in that room wants to protect our oceans and will go to great lengths to do so,” she said.
“I was very inspired, and honored to be there among so many ocean warriors.”
— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.