SANTA MONICA, Calif., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Actor Chris O'Donnell will receive the prestigious Caritas Award at the Oct. 24, 2009 Caritas Gala, hosted annually by the Saint John's Health Center Foundation Trustees and the Irene Dunne Guild. Additionally, long-time Saint John's Health Center supporters Waldo and Jean Burnside and Jack and Joan Michel will receive Spirit of Saint John's Awards for their outstanding work and charitable contributions over the years.
While younger than the typical Caritas honoree, O'Donnell was selected for the award because he represents the next generation of Saint John's supporters and community leaders. He has already helped bridge the gap between those currently involved in Saint John's charitable work and younger generations. "Chris is an outstanding role model for the future generation of Saint John's supporters and community leaders, which makes him the perfect honoree for this year's Caritas Gala," said Lou Lazatin, Chief Executive Officer of Saint John's Health Center.
O'Donnell, 39, is currently appearing as Special Agent Callen in the critically-acclaimed NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS. He has had a highly successful movie and TV career that started when he was 14. His movie credits include Scent of a Women with Al Pacino, The Chamber with Gene Hackman, The Bachelor with Renee Zellweger, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl with Abigail Breslin, and Batman Forever and Batman and Robin with George Clooney. He has also appeared as Finn Dandridge on Grey's Anatomy and Jack McAuliffe in The Company.
Throughout his fame and success, O'Donnell has retained his Catholic and deeply rooted family values. He is a firm believer in giving back to the community. In both 2003 and 2004, he co-hosted with Robert Wagner the Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, an event that benefits the Saint John's Child and Family Development Center. Additionally, O'Donnell emceed the 2007 Santa Monica 5000 Race, which raises money for the Health Center. He has also helped raise funds for the Motion Picture and Television Fund and hosted the LAPD golf tournament several years ago. O'Donnell also created a scholarship at Boston College.
Each year, the Caritas Gala honors an individual or individuals who demonstrate compassion and concern for others through exceptional service to the community. Proceeds from this year's Gala, which will take place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, will benefit Saint John's.
In previous years, the proceeds have gone to fund such projects as the Irene Dunne Guild Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the Maria Shriver Nursery and the Fast Track Unit of Saint John's Emergency Department. The Caritas Gala is also the primary mechanism by which Saint John's communicates with the public that this unique community hospital is an essential healthcare resource available to everyone.
The Burnsides moved to Los Angeles close to 30 years ago when Waldo was hired as Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer for Carter Hawley Hale Stores. Waldo became a Saint John's trustee in 1981, and the couple have been active in promoting the Health Center and its contributions to the community ever since. "We always say that it's a 'two-fer' kind of thing. It doesn't matter who the trustee is, the other spouse is involved," Waldo explained. "You'll find in a number of cases that when the wife is a trustee, the husband is very much involved -- and vice versa."
A track runner in college, Waldo heard about the Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon and decided to get involved. In addition to serving on the marathon committee for many years, Waldo took part in Forward Fund, Saint John's development campaign in the 1980s that raised more than $19 million. In 1986, he led the $25 million "Our Commitment to Tomorrow" campaign, one of the most successful fundraising endeavors in the Health Center's history, and exceeded the campaign's goal by $2 million. He continued to serve on several other committees over the years and helped raise countless dollars for Saint John's.
Jean started by volunteering at Saint John's gift shop and was a founding member of the Irene Dunne Guild, formed to promote the charitable endeavors of the Health Center. The Guild now has over 100 members who serve as goodwill ambassadors to the community and has become a major fundraising group for Saint John's programs and projects.
"I couldn't imagine better people to be honoring this year with the Spirit of Saint John's award," Lazatin said. "Waldo and Jean have given so much to this Health Center and helped make it the great place it is today."
The other couple being honored at the Gala, Jack and Joan Michel, have been involved with Saint John's for over four decades. Jack is a third-generation Californian. His family owned the Edgemar Farms dairy in Venice until they sold it in 1987. Jack was elected as a trustee in 1975, and Joan has volunteered for years at the Health Center and is a founding member of the Irene Dunne Guild. Both Jack and Joan have dedicated countless hours to fundraising and advancing the mission of the Health Center. Jack is a member of the Building Committee and helped spearhead the raising of funds to build the New Saint John's. He was Chairman of the Health Center Board of Directors from 1995 to 1998 and Chairman of the Health Center Foundation from 1999 to 2001.
"Jack and Joan are an excellent example of everything Saint John's strives to encompass," Lazatin said. "The Michels' compassion for giving back, dedication to improving the community and admirable work ethic make them perfect candidates to be honored at this year's Caritas Gala."
With an annual attendance of 600 individuals, the Caritas Gala has a distinguished following of prominent Westside residents, including the Saint John's Board of Trustees, Irene Dunne Guild, patrons and friends, physicians and hospital leadership, prominent business and community leaders.
If interested in covering the gala for your media outlet, please contact Catherine Corlin at 310-829-8441 or firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your ticket to the event.
Saint John's Health Center
Since its founding in 1942 by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Saint John's has been providing the patients and families of Santa Monica, West Los Angeles and ocean communities with breakthrough medicine and inspired healing. Saint John's provides a spectrum of treatment and diagnostic services with distinguished areas of excellence in oncology, neuroscience, spine, orthopedics, orthopedics, women's health and cardiac services, with specialized programs such as the internationally acclaimed John Wayne Cancer Institute.
SOURCE Saint John's Health Center