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Have a Heart Ball

Max Page and Sheila Melillo

On a balmy early summer evening the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel hosted one of the county’s most anticipated social and charitable events of the year, the 35th annual Orange County Heart Ball of the American Heart Association.

Guests, including co-chairs Alfredo J. Molina and Renee Dee (who organized the fundraiser) donned shades of red in keeping with the evening’s heart theme. Also on hand was Peggy Goldwater Clay, lauded as the first “Sweetheart of the Heart Ball,” to honor her service and commitment to the American Heart Association. Some 400 leaders from corporate, philanthropic, and medical communities, including Black, Star and Frost, donated a total of $590,000 to support research critical to combating deadly cardiovascular disease and strokes.

The featured speaker was 11-year-old Max Page, who came to popular attention thanks to last year’s “Star Wars” Super Bowl commercial. Page, born with a congenital heart defect, spoke about living with heart disease: “I can’t do everything I want. It’s hard, and that’s life,” he said. “I’ll have heart disease the rest of my life, and I plan on living a very full, very long life!”

During the live auction, Page’s personally autographed Darth Vader helmet raised $4,500 for the cause.

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