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United Way Scores Big With All Star Lineup And Leading Local Philanthropists

United Way Scores Big With All Star Lineup And Leading Local Philanthropists

Leigh Ann Tuohy, Mother whose story inspired The Blind Side, headlined 14th Annual Women’s Philanthropy Fund Breakfast

IRVINE, CA – Orange County United Way hosted the 14th Annual Women’s Philanthropy Fund Breakfast May 10 at the Hotel Irvine, raising more than $400,000 to support initiatives targeting the education, income, health and housing challenges facing women and children in low-income communities in Orange County.

Keynote speaker, Leigh Ann Tuohy, the mother whose story about unconditional love and commitment to the homeless son her family adopted and who was portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the Oscar-winning movie The Blind Side, captivated the audience of the mostly female, 700-plus business and community leaders.

“We were thrilled with the overwhelming support displayed at this year’s Women’s Philanthropy Fund breakfast,” said event co-chair, Loreen Gilbert, President WealthWise Financial Services. “Since it’s inception, this annual event along with member contributions has raised nearly $36 million, all of which fund  initiatives for at-risk women and children initiatives in the most underserved communities in Orange County.”

Co-Chair JoAnn Albers, President Albers Consulting LLC, noted that the added excitement of Tuohy along with former NFL players Vince Ferragamo (Rams, Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers), Steve Beuerlein, (Raiders, Cowboys, Carolina Panthers) and LeRoy Irvin (Rams) gave an added boost of excitement to the event.

“It was very gratifying to see a room full of professionals connect over the power of philanthropy,” said Albers.

Tuohy’s Story inspires Breakfast Attendees

Leigh Anne Tuohy and her husband Sean were raising two children when they adopted a teenage foster child. They raised him, ensured he got a good education and encouraged his passion for football. That once homeless and hopeless seventeen-year-old boy would grow up to become NFL Carolina Panthers, Super Bowl Champion Michael Oher. Their story was chronicled in the best-selling book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which was adapted into the film The Blind Side, starring Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne.

“Each of us must recognize the full potential of individuals in our communities and to find value in those whom society has deemed valueless,” explained Tuohy. “Imagine if someone as valuable as Michael falls through the cracks, gets left behind. All they needed was a chance.”

Tuohy continued: “What United Way is doing is making a difference because they’re helping people who could be the next best salesman, teacher, auto mechanic, and all they needed was a chance.”

Women’s Philanthropy Fund Targets Underserved School Communities

Funds raised last year through the Women’s Philanthropy Fund supported several initiatives including:

  • Early Grade Reading program – ensuring students are prepared to read by third grade
  • SparkPoint OC providing access to a full range of free financial resources and coaches, so hard working, low-income families have a path to attain self-sufficiency.
  • A food pantry program at Paul Revere Elementary School, that resembles a farmer’s market to provide nutritious and accessible food assistance
  • New Girls Scout programs from grades 1-4 to encourage good decision-making, courage and creativity as well as greater access to science and technology

The Women’s Philanthropy Fund was established 14 years ago and works to empower women and children to realize their full potential, to break the cycle of poverty and create generational change. Today, the breakfast has become one of Orange County’s premier fundraising breakfast events celebrating both community philanthropy and the power of women collectively making a difference.

Bank of America served as Champion Sponsor of the event. The company is a longtime supporter of the Women’s Philanthropy Fund and United Way’s financial literacy initiatives.

“Through the work of the Women’s Philanthropy Fund, United Way is helping Orange County families end the cycle of generational poverty,” explained Shirley Quackenbush, Sr. Vice President, Wealth Management for Bank of America. “Through job training, free tax prep and educational services supported by this event, people are getting back on their feet and on the road to financial stability and independence.”

Other sponsors for the Event included:

Visionary Sponsors:

  • Albers Consulting
  • Charter/Spectrum
  • WealthWise Financial Services
  • Wells Fargo

Investor Sponsors:

  • Crowell & Moring
  • Handel Sunrise Foundation
  • Laura Khouri and Michael K. Hayde
  • Owl Foundation
  • Pacific Life
  • Scripsense
  • Craig Realty Group
  • Victoria Collins

To learn more about the Women’s Philanthropy Fund or Women United, visit unitedwayoc.org. See more photos of the event on our Women’s Philanthropy Fund Breakfast 2017 photo album.


Katherine Ransom, Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Orange County United Way 949.263.6176, katheriner@unitedwayoc.org

Michael Suydam
21Strat 949.981.5008, mike@21strat.com


Since 1924, Orange County United Way has been working to improve lives and strengthen our community by mobilizing the caring power of Orange County, by focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life: Education, Income, Health and Housing. By investing in Orange County’s children, families and individuals, we help them create pathways to self-sufficient futures through education and training. In short, we help people help themselves. Through our 10-year community-wide action plan “FACE 2024” (an acronym for Fund, Advocate, Collaborate, Educate), United Way is mobilizing local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals to make a long-term measurable difference in the lives of local individuals and families. To learn more or to join our movement, visit www.unitedwayoc.org.

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