'A Celebration of Strength' raises thousands to help thwart cycle of domestic violence

By Lou Ponsi

She was kicked and bitten and left with two black eyes and severed lips.

Months later, another beating caused the wound left from a recent C-section to re-open.

Months after that, Maireily survived what she calls the “worst beating I had ever endured,” resulting in a fractured jaw that required surgery to repair.

Maireily found her way to the Orange County Family Justice Center, an Anaheim organization offering a variety of resources to survivors of domestic violence.

“They give me food and blankets for my baby,” said Maireily, who is 28 and has a 2-year-old daughter. “They help me a lot.”

Anaheim PD Lt. James Kazakos, president of the OC Family Justice Center Foundation, talks about the need for donations to the foundation during the foundation’s dinner fundraiser. Behind him Tracy Theodore, executive director of the OCFJC Foundation. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim PD Lt. James Kazakos, president of the OC Family Justice Center Foundation, talks about the need for donations during a dinner fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 15. Behind him is Tracy Theodore, executive director of the OCFJC Foundation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The nonprofit Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation partners with the center in offering programs for victims and family members affected by domestic abuse.

Maireily received a lengthy standing ovation and couldn’t hold back tears when she was introduced at a fundraising event for the foundation Saturday, Oct. 15, called “A Celebration of Strength.”

In order to thrive, the foundation depends heavily on donations and in-kind support, and Saturday’s gala raised $175,000 through a live auction and donations.

“I have no words,” Maireily said of the event. “This is amazing. This is fantastic.”

John Welter, former former Anaheim Police Chief, gets a playful hug from Patrick Mahoney, left, during the OCFJC Foundation’s fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

John Welter, former Anaheim Police chief, gets a playful hug from Patrick Mahoney, left, during the OCFJC Foundation’s fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The second annual gala, which also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Family Justice Center, was held at the Anaheim Hills estate of Jolynn and Patrick Mahoney.

The 200-plus in attendance made their way through “A Walk Through the Jungle of Life,” where placards positioned every few feet chronicled Maireily’s journey.

The event was held not only to celebrate survivors of domestic violence, but to highlight the need for thwarting the cycle of abuse that often gets passed from generation to generation, said Tracy Theodore, executive director of the foundation.

“We know that folks that are exposed to family violence either become a victim or repeat that type of violence,” Theodore said.

Susan Bruegman, board chairperson for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, welcomes guest to A Celebration Of Strength dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Susan Bruegman, board chairperson of the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, welcomes guests to “A Celebration Of Strength” on Saturday.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The foundation hosts programs throughout the county, for children and adults who are victims or at risk of becoming a victim or abuser, Theodore said.

The foundation holds classes dealing with stress and anger, setting boundaries, healthy relationships and bullying.

“If you can change a kid, you can change the whole family,” Theodore said.

Susan Bruegman, chairperson of the foundation’s board of directors and the wife of Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman, initially got involved to teach classes before seeing the need to get more involved.

Sofia Riley of Anaheim Hills, left, and Irene Erdtsieck of Yorba Linda receive a pair of Tommy Bahama sandals from Jennifer Gregory of Tommy Bahama, right, as guest arrive to the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sofia Riley of Anaheim Hills, left, and Irene Erdtsieck of Yorba Linda receive a pair of Tommy Bahama sandals from Jennifer Gregory of Tommy Bahama, right, as guests arrive at the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“(The issue) is too important, and if I have the opportunity to make this kind of a difference, I wanted to take it,” Bruegman said. “Our organization provides a new way of life for people.”

The center opened in 2006 as the Anaheim Family Justice Center and the Anaheim Police Department continues to be the lead agency within the center’s law enforcement arm. Then Anaheim Police Chief John Welter, who retired in 2013, helped bring the concept of a family justice center to Orange County.

“There is nothing that can have a greater impact than to eliminate violence in homes,” Welter said.

While the gala was upbeat and festive, some sobering statistics reminded attendees why they were there.

Guest enjoy orderves, drinks and a silent auction as they arrive for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Guests enjoy hors d’ouevres, drinks and a silent auction as they arrive at the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Four women are killed in the U.S. every day due to domestic violence, said Lt. James Kazakos.

Anaheim Deputy Police Chief Julian Harvey said the number of domestic violence calls coming into the department is “staggering.”

“As we speak, there are officers responding to domestic violence calls in this city … in this county,” Harvey said. “Domestic violence is a scourge of our society.”

For more information on the Orange County Family Justice Center and Family Justice Center Foundation, go to orangecountyfamilyjusticecenter.org and ocfjcfoundation.org

Molly Mahoney and Her Lucky Stars entertain guest with smooth jazz as they arrive for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser. Accompanying Molly are Brad Roth on guitar, left, John Dominguez on bass and Chris Dawson on piano. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Molly Mahoney and Her Lucky Stars entertain guests with smooth jazz. Accompanying Molly are Brad Roth on guitar, left, John Dominguez on bass and Chris Dawson on piano.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Susan Bruegman, board chairperson for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, introduces Matt Rogers the night’s Master of Ceremonies. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Susan Bruegman, board chairperson of the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, introduces Matt Rogers, the night’s master of ceremonies.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Patrick and Jolynn Mahoney are honored by OCFJC Board Chairperson Susan Bruegman, left, and former Anaheim Police Chief John Welter, right, as they receive the foundation’s Community Partner Award. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Patrick and Jolynn Mahoney are honored by OCFJC Board Chairperson Susan Bruegman, left, and former Anaheim Police Chief John Welter, right, as they receive the foundation’s Community Partner Award.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tom Miller, left, is thanked by auctioneer Matt Rogers after Miller’s winning bid of $5,000 for a $100 bill, benefiting the OCFJC Foundation during their dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tom Miller, left, is thanked by auctioneer Matt Rogers after Miller’s winning bid of $5,000 for a $100 bill, benefiting the OCFJC Foundation at the Oct. 15 fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Molly Mahoney of Molly Mahoney and Her Lucky Stars, entertain guest with smooth jazz as they arrive for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Molly Mahoney of Molly Mahoney and Her Lucky Stars entertains guests with smooth jazz as they arrive at the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman with his wife, Susan Bruegman, board chairperson for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation at the foundation’s fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman with his wife, Susan, board chairperson of the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Matt Rogers, MC and the night’s auctioneer, holds up a $100 bill as the first item to auctioned off for the night. The bill sold for $5,000 benefiting the OCFJC Foundation. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Matt Rogers, emcee and the night’s auctioneer, holds up a $100 bill as the first item to be auctioned off for the night. The bill sold for $5,000, benefiting the OCFJC Foundation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Guest sit down at Lost World Estate in Anaheim for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation at the foundation’s dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Guests sit down at Lost World Estate in Anaheim for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tracy Theodore, executive director of the OC Family Justice Center Foundation, left, brings out Kathy and Jim Antonowitsch as they are honored by the OCFJC Foundation as Partner of the Year. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tracy Theodore, executive director of the OC Family Justice Center Foundation, left, brings out Kathy and Jim Antonowitsch as they are honored by the OCFJC Foundation as Partner of the Year.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Kathy Antonowitsch, left, gives Mariely, a victim of domestic violence helped out by the OCFJC Foundation, a hug at the conclusion of the foundation’s fundraiser. Kathy’s husband Jim Antonowitsch is right. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Kathy Antonowitsch, left, gives Maireily, a victim of domestic violence helped out by the OCFJC Foundation, a hug at the conclusion of the foundation’s fundraiser. Kathy’s husband Jim is on the right. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Susan Bruegman, board chairperson for the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, welcomes guest to A Celebration Of Strength dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Susan Bruegman, board chairperson of the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, welcomes guests to the “A Celebration of Strength” dinner fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Modern Gentlemen guest with classics from the 50’s and 60’s during the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Modern Gentlemen perform classics from the ’50s and ’60s at the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation’s dinner fundraiser.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jim and Kathy Antonowitsch are honored by the OCFJC Foundation as Partner of the Year during the foundation’s dinner fundraiser. On stage with them are former Anaheim Police Chief and one of the founders of OCFJC John Welter, left, OCFJC Board Chairperson Susan Bruegman and OCFJC Executive Director Tracy Theodore. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jim and Kathy Antonowitsch are honored by the OCFJC Foundation as Partner of the Year. On stage with them are former Anaheim Police Chief and one of the founders of the OCFJC John Welter, left, OCFJC Board Chairperson Susan Bruegman and OCFJC Executive Director Tracy Theodore.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Mariely, a victim of domestic violence helped out by the OCFJC Foundation, receives a standing ovation by those attending the foundation dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Maireily, a victim of domestic violence who was helped out by the OCFJC Foundation, receives a standing ovation by those attending the dinner fundraiser. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim PD’s Deputy Chief Julian Harvey talks about how the OC Family Justice Center Foundation benefits victims of domestic violence during the foundations’s dinner fundraiser. Next to him is Tracy Theodore, executive director of the OCFJC Foundation. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim PD Deputy Chief Julian Harvey talks about how the OC Family Justice Center Foundation benefits victims of domestic violence during the foundations’s dinner fundraiser. Next to him is Tracy Theodore, executive director of the OCFJC Foundation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Matt Rogers, MC and Auctioneer for the OCFJC Foundation’s dinner fundraiser, thanks everyone for attending and their help in raising an extra $175,000 through the live auction and donations. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Matt Rogers, emcee and auctioneer at the OCFJC Foundation’s dinner fundraiser, thanks everyone for attending and for their help in raising $175,000 through the live auction and donations.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC