By Clara Helm
In a night of community celebration, the Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club’s Above and Beyond Gala is scheduled on Aug. 25. Members of the Rotary Club and community members are invited to join in honoring award recipients at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point and support children’s charities.
The Rotary Club has chosen eight individuals who have worked to elevate the community. These individuals, according to the Rotary Club, have exhibited compassion, innovation, and service-minded attitudes.
“These local heroes have demonstrated a deep commitment to helping others and building a stronger, more inclusive community,” Heather Gillon, Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club President, said in a press release.
Laila Naji, the Interact Governor of Rotary District 5320, will be honored at the celebration. Interact Club is a subdivision of the Rotary Club that invites young people ages 12-18 to participate in learning leadership skills and service.
Naji has been chosen for her leadership role, which has inspired a generation of young leaders to engage in meaningful community service.
In addition to honoring Naji, the Rotary Club will also award members of the community at the gala.
James Parris will be honored for his efforts with the Feeding Freedom Foundation, which helps servicemembers, their families, and law enforcement officers.
“(Parris) has made an impact in bringing greater awareness to the sacrifices of our nation’s protectors,” Gillon in the release.
Another supporter of local families, Mike Darnold will also be honored for his work with Student Support and Family Interventions. His service toward students and families, specifically at Dana Hills High School, will be recognized, as the Rotary Club has seen him make profound differences in countless lives.
Serving the community through recreation, Eric Diamond and James Littlejohn will be recognized as well.
Diamond, president of the Dana Point Surf Club, is being recognized for his leadership and for helping bring a deep appreciation for the ocean to Dana Point youth. Littlejohn is the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley and is receiving an award for fostering a safe environment for local youth in which they can learn and grow.
Jim Miller, the owner of Coffee Importers in Dana Point Harbor, is being awarded for creating community togetherness at a favorite Dana Point gathering spot and contributing to local institutions such as schools and nonprofits.
Both working in local government, Carly Velez and Vickie McMurchie are being honored at the gala for helping the community through protection and problem-solving.
Velez, a deputy sheriff, is being honored because of her strong leadership in Orange County law enforcement, as she is dedicated to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community.
McMurchie is the executive director of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce and is being honored for her work to help boost economic growth in the local business community landscape.
Other than celebrating these recipients, the gala attendees will also have the chance to raise funds for local charities, youth programs, and global humanitarian initiatives.
For those who would like to attend the Above and Beyond Gala, supporting local causes and celebrating community service, tickets can be purchased at danapointrotary.org.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the event is meant to support children’s charities, in addition to honoring eight individuals who have worked to elevate the community. The updated story also clarifies that Laila Naj is the Interact Governor of Rotary District 5320 and is not a Rotary Club member.