Speakers included authors Tim Eagan, Romy Wyllie and radio personality Dennis Prager.
By Michael BRUER
The Angeles National Golf Club was the site of a sold-out luncheon to raise money for the Orthopedic Institute for Children’s (OIC) charity programs on Oct. 29. Two-hundred-and-twenty guests packed the dining room to participate in an opportunity drawing and silent auction, but mainly to listen to the wise words of three guest authors on hand: Tim Eagan, Romy Wyllie and Dennis Prager.
Dr. William Oppenheim, director of the UCLA Orthopedic Hospital Center and the OIC, began the day with a brief but informative look into the world of cerebral palsy. He explained the details of cerebral palsy – a disease of the brain which affects mobility, speech, feeding, learning and activities of daily living (ADL). His presentation outlined three goals of the cerebral palsy program at the hospital: patient care, research, and education. He told the audience that the program’s research has already produced a groundbreaking new strategy to aid doctors in the assessment of patients: SCALE, selective motor control of the lower extremities. This assessment tool allows physicians to evaluate patients and determine who would benefit from surgery and who would not. Oppenheim said that SCALE is so useful it is currently being utilized around the world.
Each of the authors then had an opportunity to take the podium, sharing their perspectives on life, writing and the attitudes and opinions of modern society.
Author and illustrator Tim Eagan commenced the lighter portion of the afternoon with an amusing story of the origins of his writing career. He detailed his humble beginnings as a high school cartoonist through his years at the Art Center College of Design, and his ensuing job as a children’s book author and illustrator. On the way he mentioned his friendship with acclaimed painter Thomas Kincaid.
His book “Pink Refrigerator” featured an animal whose exact species went undetermined. The mouse-like creature seemed to be a distant cousin of the animals he doodled in a book every night. Tim captivated the audience with his stories as a nerdy high schooler, and concluded his time with a story of his 30th wedding anniversary trip.
Hailing from across the pond, British author Romy Wyllie engaged her listeners on an equally effective level – that of the love a mother has for her child. The Indie Reader Discovery Award 2013 recipient chronicled the source of her heartwarming tale, “Loving Andrew,” a story about the challenges and joys of raising a boy with Down syndrome. She highlighted society’s changing attitudes with the intent of empowering people with developmental disabilities.
Wyllie’s story is distinguished by a distinctive connection to the OIC – both share a focus on children. Also notable is the relative proximity of the source of her work: she explained how a devastating fire in Altadena on Oct. 28, 1993 destroyed 50% of the homes in her area, burning three-quarters of the homes in her neighborhood to the ground. With her house left untouched, Wyllie said she remembered hearing a voice that encouraged her: “Your house was saved for a reason; it’s time to start writing that book.” Wyllie took a class on writing and found a renewed vigor to tell her son’s story.
Her book is punctuated by inspiring facets of Andrew’s accomplishments: learning how to play piano, swim, ride horseback and even dressage. The moving narrative of her work presents a small group of parents who are pioneers – defying doctors’ advice to keep their less-than-perfect babies.
Lastly, radio host and author Dennis Prager took the microphone. As a 31-year veteran of radio, a guest on “Larry King Live” and “Hannity,” and the author of two other books, Prager was introduced as one who had no qualms speaking in front of an audience.
He began by expressing his support of the OIC.
“I want to let you know how much I value this work,” he told the audience. He then proceeded to evaluate the current state of affairs in the nation in relation to the founding ideas on which it is based, namely, “Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum.” He articulated his discontent with the lack of a God-centered government. Prager went on to explain how removing just one of these parts of the United States would remove America’s identity.
“You can’t remove one and maintain the idea,” he said. “If you can’t define what you stand for, you can’t sustain yourself.”
Another notable excerpt of his concerned the removal of liberties in America.
“The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. As the government gets bigger, the citizen gets smaller,” Prager said.
He finished his time at the podium by stressing that the differentiation of citizens as African-American, Asian-American, and the like is wrong, and that “America never was a hyphened society, that’s the beauty of being American.”
The authors signed copies of their books and donated a percentage of their sales to the OIC.
The luncheon benefited all parties: the authors were given an opportunity to share their work up close and personal, money was raised for the Orthopedic Institute for Children, and guests enjoyed a nice lunch, bid on auction items, and learned from the insights provided by the accomplished authors.