Gala celebrates hope in the face of tragedy

Michel Shane (left), Laureen Sills (second from left) and three children take the stage to auction off an item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursdsay, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Michel Shane (left), Laureen Sills (second from left) and three children take the stage to auction off an item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursdsay, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Friends of the Shane family and other community members gathered at Casa Escobar in Malibu on Thursday, May 7, for the Stars and Sea Gala. 

The event was hosted by the Emily Shane Foundation and sought to raise money for the SEA (Successful Educational Achievement) program, which was started by the foundation and helps struggling children and teens perform better in school.

Emily Shane was a 13-year-old girl who died on April 3, 2010, when she was hit by a suicidal driver as she was crossing the street on Pacific Coast Highway. She struggled in school because of what was deemed a “processing issue,” said Ellen Shane, Emily’s mother. 

During the event, a video montage of Emily’s life was shown. It mostly consisted of photographs of the young girl when she was alive, and two short video clips of her dancing in a talent show and laughing with a friend.

Jonathan Banks, actor from the “Breaking Bad” television series, was Master of Ceremonies for the night. He said he knew Emily since she was 3, and was thankful to those who attended the gala. 

“There over 200 children being helped because you are here tonight,” Banks said while on stage. “It’s no small deal. It’s great.”

Banks said he was one of the kids who “fell between the cracks and needed help” with his education, and added that he was almost 20 when he graduated high school. He said what he remembered most about Emily was her life, putting emphasis on the word. 

“I’ve never seen a child more full of life,” Banks said.

Malibu resident Kevin Cozen bids on a silent auction item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Malibu resident Kevin Cozen bids on a silent auction item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Ellen Shane introduced several children who participate in the SEA program. The kids shared stories of their educational improvements as a result of the program. 

Durron Williams, 14, said SEA helped him with his confidence, and spoke in high regard of the mentors who help him and the other kids in the program. 

“The tutors, they don’t just teach you,” said Williams, who was the least shy child when he told his story. “They take their time, they help you learn and they help you realize the things that you can do.”

Kelsey Crispeno, a 20-year-old sophomore at Loyola Marymount University, is a mentor for the program. She said her experience there has been unique and rewarding. 

“It’s been really cool not only to watch my students grow and succeed in their own way, but for me to be able to witness that,” said Crispeno, who has been a mentor for about four months. “I feel like I’ve experienced growth in the way that I see the world in kind of a different way.”

Benjamin Seng paints on a canvas during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Benjamin Seng paints on a canvas during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Ellen Shane said she likes to use mentors who are either in college or recent graduates. However, she has struggled finding students in Malibu. 

“Here in Malibu, I have a really hard time, actually, sourcing enough mentors for the kids,” Ellen Shane said. “There’s always a much longer list of kids who need the help than mentors I can find.”

The gala featured live entertainment from singer-songwriter Taylor Phelan and comedian Mike Marino. Various items were sold in both silent and live auctions throughout the night. 

Some items being sold were paintings, photographs of celebrities, Los Angeles Dodgers tickets and more.

The Shane family established the foundation in 2012 in memory of Emily.

Ellen Shane said she suffers every day, but has learned to cope with the loss of her daughter through her work with the foundation.

“If I defined myself by my daughter’s loss, I would be sad all the time and I wouldn’t be able to cope or function,” Shane said. “But instead … I wanted to do something that would have been meaningful to her and also helping others. That alone lifts me and makes me feel better about the tragedy.”

Jonathan Banks (right) talks to Ellen and Michel Shane during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Jonathan Banks (right) talks to Ellen and Michel Shane during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

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