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Direct Relief Women Raises Funds for 4,000 Safe Births at Annual Mother’s Day Event


Direct Relief Women – a group that supports Direct Relief’s programs targeting maternal and child health – raised more than $100,000 at its third annual Mother’s Day event held Thursday evening at the home of Bryan and Lisa Babcock in Montecito.

The amount raised will allow the Goleta-based humanitarian aid organization to support more than 4,000 safe births for mothers and children worldwide.

Nearly 200 people attended the event that featured special guest Scott Neeson, founder of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF). After introductions by Direct Relief President and CEO, Thomas Tighe, and Direct Relief Women Chair, Mari Mitchel, Neeson gave a stirring presentation on the need for holistic medical care for mothers and children suffering in the slums of Cambodia.

The former President of 20th Century Fox International told the crowd he was moved to found CCF after a trip to Phnom Penh in 2003 where he met many abandoned children as well as families living in poverty. “I left Hollywood for a Cambodian garbage dump,” he said without regret.

The organization, which provides education, nourishment, and healing to vulnerable children from some of Cambodia’s most destitute communities, runs one of the only free health care programs serving all ages in the country – treating about 100 patients a day.

Direct Relief was one of the first organizations to support CCF with donations of medical resources and today remains one of their largest in-kind partners. “We get shipments of medicine arriving at our doorstep that save lives,” said Neeson.

The special guest said he is most proud of CCF’s maternal health program, which began in early 2010 with support from Direct Relief. More than 450 mothers have gone through the program, which has a zero percent maternal mortality rate, making it one of the most successful programs of its kind in the world. “Saving even one mother is a miracle,” he told the crowd.

Following Neeson’s presentation, Andrew Firestone addressed the attendees, serving as the master of ceremonies for the Stand Up and Be Counted portion of the evening. “Far too many women are dying doing something we take for granted – giving birth.” he told the audience.

For the third consecutive year, the event was chaired by Direct Relief Women executive committee members, Kelly Walker and Kristin McWilliams.  Through education, service, and financial giving, the volunteer members of Direct Relief Women dynamically support the work of Direct Relief in creating healthy families around the world.

Guests enjoyed signature cocktail and a selection of fine wine donated by Babcock Winery and Vineyards. The event was sponsored by Alamo Self-Storage; American Riviera Bank; Appleton Associates; Babcock Winery and Vineyards; Alexandra and Joost Bongearts; Firestone Walker Brewery; Mark Mattingly, Pacifica Realty Co.; Occhiali; Stein Gardens and Gifts; and Violette Bakeshop.

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