The Kiwanis Club of Burbank held its 100-Year Celebration Gala on Friday, March 11, at the Castaway Restaurant Valley View Room, and Main Ballroom.
Late-night TV host and stand-up comedian Jay Leno served as master of ceremonies at the gathering, in which attendees dined, danced, bid on items for live and silent auctions, and enjoyed each other’s company as they came together to commemorate the club’s accomplishments.
Dignitaries such as Senator Anthony Portantino, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and Burbank City Councilmembers Nick Schultz, Bob Frutos, and Sharon Springer appeared at the celebration. District Governor of Kiwanis International Margo Dutton, past Kiwanis President Kelly Peña, and Governor-Elect of Kiwanis International Valarie Brown-Klingelhoefer, were also in attendance.
Not only does the annual gala serve as a fun night for locals to honor the organization, but it also continues their mission of paying it forward, as all net funds raised from event admissions, donations, and sponsorships will be put towards philanthropic Kiwanis Club efforts. The club supports more than 50 programs in the city, such as scholarships, various art departments, key clubs, and Burbank Singing Star, which provides thousands of dollars for the music education of middle schoolers.
The gala began with a Pledge of Allegiance invocation led by Ivan Cregger, a 100-year-old Burbank resident who is a World War II veteran and a pillar of the community. Kiwanis Club co-chairpersons Cynthia Faust, Lisa Malm, Linda Wiggins, and Luis Centeno then took the stage and introduced Leno, who thanked local officials and sponsors of the event, including the Cusumano family, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, and Burbank Water and Power.
John Muir Middle School teacher Rod Rothacher, who is the creator and leader of a Kiwanis-sponsored week-long speech contest for his eighth-grade students, was next presented with a $1,500 check on stage. This sum will go towards further supporting the speech contest, which is a beneficial learning experience for students such as Joanna Camacho, Vice President of the Burbank High School Key Club, who spoke at the event.
During the ceremony, Burbank Chief of Police Mike Albanese presented Leno with a handmade end-grain wooden cutting board. Albanese, who crafts elaborate woodworking items in his spare time, spent a total of 12 hours creating the board he gave to Leno, and additionally donated a large cutting board made of walnut, padauk, and maple wood to the Kiwanis Club. He calls this hobby “cathartic” and “energizing,” and he gives away the vast majority of his woodworking projects to various charitable organizations.
Albanese expressed his excitement in continuing the police department’s long-standing partnership with the Kiwanis Club while witnessing Cregger’s initiation of the festivities.
“This is a big deal, the 100th anniversary for Kiwanis,” Albanese said. “And the ceremonial part with a 100-year old veteran celebrating the 100th anniversary, how cool is that?”
Douglas Chadwick, president of the Kiwanis Club of Burbank, noted the event’s standout moments, including when Camacho took the stage. In addition, the gala had a strong turnout and exceeded Kiwanis members’ expectations for the volume of contributions provided by donors.
“Having a student we support speak was amazing,” Chadwick said. “We had more people and raised more money than we have in a few years. Being president in this 100th year was an honor and a highlight for me.”
The club, which became the first service organization in Burbank upon its founding in 1922, has persisted in raising funds for local groups throughout the pandemic. This includes a family fun golf ball drop function that took place in July 2021 and collected money for various youth services, and will again take place in May of this year.
Some future plans for the club include expanding membership and incorporating more youth service groups into its roster. In addition, Chadwick created a booklet of photos documenting the 100-year history of the Kiwanis Club of Burbank as party favors for guests, and he hopes this rich history can soon be memorialized with a permanent display at the Burbank Historical Society museum.
Donors were cheerful in celebrating this momentous occasion and, as it has been typical of the Kiwanis Club for a century, their occasion brought Burbank residents together in the name of promoting noteworthy causes.
“Burbankians were ready to let their hair down and have some fun, and we all did,” Chadwick said of the gala. “Dancing, music, and Jay Leno was a great combo and really brought out the community.”