Hats on for moms at brunch for St. Jude’s Ranch

May 10th was the perfect day for the 10th annual Mother’s Day brunch under the tent on the JW Marriott’s east lawn.

The Moms Rock Mother’s Day Tea and Brunch was hosted by St. Jude’s Ranch for Children and benefited its Child Focus program for abused, neglected and homeless children in Southern Nevada. Money raised also will help pay for Camp 2 Belong, which reunites siblings separated in community foster care for a week of fun and bonding.

Nearly 300 women sporting the latest in millinery fashions arrived with their children to support the program. The event celebrated mothers, nontraditional families, daughters, sons, sisters and friends in what was termed a not-so-traditional tea for the not-so-traditional mom. The event also featured entertainment, children’s activities and more.

At registration, guests made a donation for a Mad Hatter hat and wand and were entered in the drawing for mother and daughter diamond double-heart pendants donated by MJ Christensen owner Darlene Miller.

A hat parade followed the luncheon. Brenda Bogue wore a black-and-white double-brim hat from Voisine Millinery. Jennifer Johnson stood out in her original bird’s nest hat she created the night before. Fafie Moore sported a peach-colored hat made by a Kentucky Derby hat maker.

St. Jude’s Ranch organizers expressed their appreciation by presenting Patti Chess with the Special Mom award and Sonia Anderson, the event’s honorary chairwoman and CEO and founder of the Andson Foundation, with the Diamond Heart award. The Andson Foundation offers tutoring for children at St. Jude’s Ranch.

Chess has volunteered for Child Focus for the past 10 years since retiring from the Department of Family Services. She loves working with the Camp 2 Belong each summer.

“My passion is reuniting siblings,” she said.

Development Director Kelley McClellan of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children said, “Camp 2 Belong is one week kids will never forget.” For many, it’s the only time of the year they will spend with their siblings, who may have been adopted and moved out of state. The 11-year-old camp lets siblings have birthday celebrations, scrapbook and do other things they may not normally get to do together.

The camp costs St. Jude’s Ranch $1,200 for each child for one week. That’s why Paragon Gaming CEO Diana Bennett and others donated more than $15,000 at the brunch.

“Camp is so expensive for us we need assistance to make it a memorable experience,” noted Myesha Wilson, Nevada regional director for St. Jude’s Ranch.

Tammy Gerber has volunteered at Camp 2 Belong for more than five years. It’s where she met Kyla and her two brothers. One day she ran down the mountain at camp to call her husband and say, “I’ve found our family.” The process took nearly two years and she needed the Hopi Indian Tribe’s blessings because of the children’s heritage.

“It completely changed our life. It’s the best thing that ever happened to us,” Gerber said, noting one adopted son is now 17 and learning to drive, and preparing for college. Another plays football, she said, and Kyla is happier than ever after waiting from age 4 to 10 to get adopted. She had refused adoption previously unless her brothers were adopted with her. When Kyla spoke to the audience about her new forever family, there was not a dry eye in the place.

Event Chairwoman Ann Nicholson donated her handmade jewelry and beads for the kids’ craft session. St. Jude’s Ranch sold beautiful artwork and hand-painted coasters made by the ranch’s children.

Also attending were: Marlee Palermo, Doug Anderson, Jeannette Schneider, Maureen Feduniak, Mercedes Martinez, Paige Candee, Lori Nelson and Nina Radetich.

Elisa and her daughter Olivia Fiorillo entertained attendees.