VNA Health’s 23rd Annual Mother’s Day Luncheon

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 21, 2024
Summerland Beautiful team from left: Sharon Curry, D’Arcy Cornwell, Leslie Person Ryan, Elizabeth Winterhalter, Penny Mathison, and Lorie Porter (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The VNA Health’s 23rd Annual Mother’s Day Luncheon Fundraiser took place Friday, May 10 at the Santa Barbara Hilton Ballroom. The event celebrated Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree as their Remembered Mother and Leslie Person Ryan as their Honored Mother.

The sold-out event opened with a champagne reception, and silent auction tables in the ballroom. Raffle tickets were sold for an Epicurean Basket, Louis Vuitton handbag plus fashionista local shopping, a charter ride on the Landshark, and a Montecito area catered sports experience.

Rona Barrett and her Foundation Executive Director Tony Morris (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The event host committee members were Stacie Anthes, Hiroko Benko, Sharon Bradford, Vince Caballero, Jessica Caballero, Phyllis Christensen, Chris Emmons, Kimberly Ferrarin, Jodi Fishman-Osti, Anna Grotenhuis, Jane Habermann, Pamela Dillman Haskell, Victoria Furst Hines, Allison Kay, Francie Lufkin, Maggie Mabuchi, Lailan McGrath, Val Montgomery, Judy Murphy, Diane Pannkuk, Kieran Shah, Sharol Siemens, Jennie Strait, Marie Ann Strait, Susan Tarlow, Anne Towbes, Carolyn Williams, and Katina Zaninovich.

At 11:20 am, guests were ushered into the ballroom for a surprise dance performance by the Meredith Cabaniss Ventura and Selah Dance Collective to honor Person Ryan. The dancers were Zoe Brown, McKenzie Gosney, Madelyne Herbert, Elianne Holt, Hailey Maynard, Madeline Stiner, Victoria Vertiz, and Isabella Voder. 

During lunch, President and CEO of VNA Health Kieran Shah welcomed the attendees. He provided the history of Mother’s Day and correlated it with the establishment of VNA Health in 1908 by Marian Watts. Shah added, “VNA Health fills the gap of medical care in the community. We partner with local organizations that together are the spirit of the community. Sutter Health is our first ever Vision Sponsor of this event. We thank all our sponsors, staff, and especially our care givers. We honor our past honorees who are here and dedicate the table centerpieces to them.” 

President of Greater Central Coast Market Sutter Health Kurt N. Ransohoff spoke briefly about Sutter Health and its mission to collaborate all health care organizations like the VNA Health, Sansum Clinic, and Cottage Hospital. He was followed by VNA Health’s Director of Home Health Care Jadona Collier and Senior Director of Hospice and Palliative Care Sena Woodall.

Master of Ceremonies Andrew Firestone shared his inspiration, saying, “My goal has always been to support the most vulnerable in our community. And that is what the VNA Health caregivers provide at the end of a life.” He introduced Gil Rosas who played classic contemporary songs on piano, and spoke about his experience with VNA Health.

The Live Auction was conducted by Erin Graffy, who raised approximately $13,000. 

Firestone introduced the Honored Remembered Mother, Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree. He mentioned her philanthropic work and her love of music. He introduced three of the five members of the “Leslie’s Guys” all-male singing group, Rod Lathim, Bobby Lesser,and Rosas. They performed the song, “I Remember It Well” with their own lyrics dedicated to Ridley-Tree. Speaking their tributes about her were her daughter Suzette Chafey,a hospice nurse of 10 years for VNA Health, and grandchildren, Nahtahna and Xaloc Cabanes. They shared about Leslie’s love of God, her children, and her quote of giving more than you think you can give.

Shah then introduced the Honored Mother, Leslie Person Ryan,lauded for her work as a Visionary Entrepreneur, Food Resilience Hero, and A Force of Nature. She is the CEO & Founder of the Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Education Foundation. She is well-known in Montecito for her previous stationery shop, Letter Perfect, and dedicated volunteer board work. VNA Health connected with her to provide food staples for a single parent who was in hospice and for her two sons. Person Ryan still provides weekly food service to the sons, who both spoke their words of thanks. 

A video to Person Ryan, with fond congrats and thanks by friends, family, her employees, and her food service clients, was followed by a second video from her son Tally (Talliesin), currently working in the U.S. Military and deployed. With her at the event were her two daughters, Margaret (Peg) and Ottocina, who provided their speeches about her. 

Person Ryan, overcome with the accolades, had tears in her eyes as she talked about being a mother, the qualities of her children, and her guidance for them as a single parent. She stressed about the need for food security in Santa Barbara County via a network of farms, and to grow food seeds without chemicals. Her Sweet Wheel Farm is organic, uses high-tech irrigation, makes its own power, and will soon be delivering food via EV bicycles. Ilene Nagel presented Person Ryan with her award, a statue designed by artist and sculptor Aris Demetrios. Shah had her pick the lucky raffle winners, which concluded the event.

Noted attendees were last year’s Honored Mother Rona Barrett with her Foundation Executive Director Tony Morris, and the Summerland Beautiful team supporting Person Ryan: Sharon Curry, D’Arcy Cornwell, Elizabeth Winterhalter, Penny Mathison and Lorie Porter; Vince Caballero, Renee Grubb, and Norm Habermann.



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