Thinking back to Betty Ford’s great event, their mascot, some great people, and Howie Mandell!

Thinking back to Betty Ford’s great event, their mascot, some great people, and Howie Mandell!

It’s beginning to look as if the desert’s fastest rising celebrity-philanthropists doesn’t live in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage or Indian Wells — even though his earning power could well afford it.   This philanthropist lives in 14 children’s books, videos and an interactive website, and his name is “Beamer.”

Beamer is a light bulb-shaped, animated cartoon character who works around the clock (and around the world) as a fundraiser, spokesperson and teacher for the Hazelden-Betty Ford Center’s Children’s programs. Beamer speaks to children whose lives are affected by addiction, assuring them “You are  not alone, it’s not your fault.”

Beamer reaches millions of children on the Internet, is bilingual and, this fall, the Beamer children’s programs will be teaching life skills and “talking about your feelings” in three local schools, with more to come. A Spanish-English version of the program will also be introduced locally this year.

Beamer was very much the star of this 4th Annual Beamer Awards Gala, held Jan. 30 at the Ritz Carlton Resort.  Even the entertainer, Howie Mandell, commented, “I had to come into town early to rehearse my lines with the lightbulb.”

The number of guests waiting to get their photo taken with Beamer were almost as long as the ones eager to meet the evening’s honoree,  Susan Ford Bales, daughter of president Gerald and Betty Ford.


Question: When you grow up in the White House, fill in (as a teenager) for the First Lady, attend Mount Vernon College and then earn a dozen honorary degrees – where do you go from there?  The answer for Susan Ford Bales was, EVERYWHERE!

This low profile philanthropist sits on boards and actively supports dozens of charities while still living a “normal” life as the wife of attorney Vaden Bales in Tulsa Oklahoma. She has two daughters, three grandchildren and three step sons, most of whom were present at this event.

Susan worked side by side with her mother at the Betty Ford center for many years and remains a supporter, especially in the areas of how addiction impacts families, women with addictive disease, and the Center’s unique children’s programs.

During her brief acceptance speech, she choked up when speaking of her mother and closed by speaking to her, saying, “Mom, you kept your promise.”

Dr. Harry Haroutunian, a board certified physician in addiction medicine at the Betty Ford Center, presented the Beamer Award to Susan Ford Bales.

Other participants in the fast-paced program were:

CBS 2 weather guru Patrick Evans, who emceed the entire, perfectly planned program with smooth professionalism.

  • Jerry Moe, National Director of the Hazelden  Betty Ford Center Children’s programs who has earned the respect of every adult he’s ever met and the adoring love of the children he works with at the center and its outreach programs. Later, when Moe and his staff were asked to stand, they received a spontaneous standing ovation.
  •  Jan Salta, co-chair, major sponsor, and a 40-year friend of Susan Ford Bales, introduced her friend with a clever poem which included references to shopping sprees, neighborhood gossip, and babysitting each other’s kids. It ended with, ” After 40 years, don’t we still look the same?”
  • Madeline (Maddy) Redstone, co- chairing for the third year,  who spoke lovingly of the late Lois Horvitz,  the”Godmother” of Beamer, who passed last year. Redstone praised Horvitz for guiding her own recovery at the Betty Ford Center 10 years ago, and showed a brief, charming video featuring  Horvitz and her  famous laugh.

Other past honorees were the late Lois Horvitz, Jamie Kabler, Linda Ellerbee, Donna MacMillan, Viacom, and G. Aubrey Serfling.  

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The Beamer effect was cleverly carried throughout the room by table centerpieces which beamed like flickering candelabra, but without the fire hazard.

Platinum sponsors of the gala were The Horvitz Family, Madeline Redstone, Jan Salta, and Almine & Bernard Ruiz-Picasso. Plus a late, much appreciated Platinum arrival, the Family Wealth Advisors, affiliated with Bank of the West Wealth Management and the BNP Paribas Group.

Gold sponsors were Caroline Cochener & James Bonesteel, Helene Galen & Jamie Kabler, Eisenhower MedicalCenter, Donna MacMillan, Harold Matzner, Stacey & Greg Renker, H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, and Cini & Ira Robb.

Silver sponsors were El Pomar Foundation, Harve Ferrill, Claudia Lagresa & Eric Lund, Donna & Robert Reifschneider, Marion and Bob Rosenthal, Betsy Farveer Smith & Rick Smith, JoAnn McGrath, Marjorie & Stephen Kulp, Anne Holland, Wendy & Robert Goodfriend and Kelly Dougherty & Kathy Valentine.

Thanks to these and many other donors who bought tickets at $750 each, the Beamer gala raised an estimated $700,000 to fund its children’s programs.

A huge behind-the-scenes team, led by show producer Debbie Green of Deb Len Productions, were thanked with ads in a slick, colorful program booklet produced by Rachel Horwitz.


You’ll have to guess, because his funny monologue drew big laughs but nothing I can quote in a family newspaper.  His theme was “embarrassing moments” and involved mentions of his wife’s estrogen patches, his visit to a proctologist, and some funny exchanges with Dr. Harry  Haroutunian in the audience. Haroutunian held his own with Mandel who eventually admitted, “OK – I give up – Harry’s funnier than I am.”

The evening ended right on time at 9:00, followed by an After Glow party on the Ritz Carlton Terrace for the late nighters, who expressed their thanks to Doug Watson, Don Maselli,Jr. and the entire Ritz-Carlton staff.

The 5th annual Beamer Awards Gala will be in early 2017.  For information phone 760-773-4105 or visit Web site www,