Montecito Union School Foundation Annual Gala

By Joanne A Calitri   |   April 23, 2024
Jana and Peter Norman, Peter and Annie Burtness, and Principal Nick Bruski with wife Heather (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The Montecito Union School Foundation (MUSF) annual gala fundraiser was held on Friday, April 12 at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito. This year’s formal affair – Côte d’Azur: A night in the French Riviera.

Vice Principal Rusty Ito and wife Rebecca with MUS Superintendent Anthony Ranii and wife Lindsay (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The important fundraising gala assures that the resources of MUS will continue and be added to. It awards grants towards the school’s musical $11,600, the African drumming classes that started with MUS music teacher Pam McClendon over 10 years ago, the MUS Strategic Plan $175k, STEAM $90k, poetry and artists in residence $12,600, library $4,000, robot replacement $4,000, the nature lab and teacher grants.

Event Co-Chairs again this year are the fab duo of Amanda Nicole Lee and Catherine Stoll, who we heard may retire from the role. Their team are the lovely Casey Kallenbach, Jordana Brewster-Morfit,and Jessica Warm. Lee and Stoll thank Kallenbach as the co-chair in training, lead graphic designer and floral assistant with Mally Chakola-Jackson florist and décor extraordinaire. 

In reflecting on the support of the Rosewood Miramar Beach as the event location, Stoll and Lee said, “We are very grateful to Rick Caruso, Philipp Posch, and the entire Rosewood Miramar team. They have been our lead sponsor ever since they opened the resort, and this year was no exception. Not only did they sponsor the event, but they also underwrote a good portion of it. We are so lucky to have them as community partners. There are plenty of business that could give to the school that don’t. It really shows that Caruso and his team are invested in our goal of educational enrichment and helping better the community.”

This year held a record-breaking attendance at 250 including MUS faculty and staff, and a record-breaking number of sponsorships, totaling over $105,000. Stoll added, “A huge shout out to the Rosewood Miramar Beach, LaBarge Winery, Montecito Wellness, Stoll Law, along with the Evans and Reitman-Sternberg families. We are so thankful to all of those who made this such a huge success, and we hope to see a return of support to those local businesses. Their banners are hung proudly on the San Ysidro fence line at MUS. We also thank one of our favorite local shops, Wunderkind in the upper village, for outfitting us in jewelry by Irene Neuwirth, Azlee, and Ileana Makri.”

MUSF Gala Event Committee: Casey Kallenbach, Catherine Stoll, Amanda Nicole Lee, Jessica Warm, and Jordana Brewster-Morfit (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The soirée commenced with a patio reception overlooking the ocean, with champagne, boutique hors d’oeuvres, and live music. The silent auction tables that lined both sides of the banquet hallway had gifts for everyone, including cooking classes, hikes with mimosas at the San Ysidro Trail, Michelle K Brow Studio, Circle Bar B, Core Power Yoga, Alexandra Jules Diamond Necklace 18k pink gold, Ventura Staycation, Santa Barbara Ice Bath, SY Ranch Spa, LaBarge Winery Tour, and school related auction items like front row seating for graduation and the spring concert. 

The formal dinner saw fresh roses and fruit centerpieces, with healthy entrees. The live auction and Paddle Raise emcee was MUSF board member and MUS parent Richard Koch. Items included a signed Kelly Slater surfboard, dinner served by the SB County Fire Department with firefighter gear and K9 dog demo (auctioned three dinners at $72,000 each), a Rincon Staycation, a Rosewood Miramar Beach deluxe suite two-day staycation, Principal for the Day (sold two at $4,000 each), Santa Ynez horse farm staycation, Punta Mita family vacay and MUS Library tree naming rights (sold two at $6,500 each). The success of the live auction was met on the dance floor with DJ Spencer until 10 pm. The gala was followed by the VIP After Party Speakeasy at the Rosewood Miramar Beach that went till 1 am, as Stoll shares: “This in part was due to our surprise guest DJ Samantha Ronson. We even had some rival Cold Springs School parents sneak in after their own gala, whom we welcomed.” 

The MUSF 2024 funding goal was $200,000 and it was successfully reached at an approximate net of $230k from ticket sales, sponsors, the raffle, silent and live auction and the ask. All guests received a swag bag from Anine Bing and Jenni Kayne. Wine was donated from Miller Family wines.



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