A Common Bond
By Katie Sweeney
The members of the Pasadena Guild have a long tradition of raising significant funds for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Their secret? Fun, friendship, a little elbow grease—and tenacious teamwork.
The first shoppers arrive at 5 p.m.—lawn chairs and sleeping bags in tow—and stake out their place near the still-locked doors. Over the next 16 hours, the line behind them will start to swell, spill out of the shopping center, snake around the corner, and then stretch down the next few blocks.
No, it’s not Black Friday. It’s late October, and the crowd has eagerly queued up for the Pasadena Guild’s annual Treasures & Trivia rummage sale. The three-day event draws thousands of bargain-hungry shoppers—and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“It’s massive,” says Sarah Shelton, President of the Pasadena Guild. “You almost have to see it to believe it. People who come for the first time are always astonished.”
But more impressive than the event’s size—last year it was held in a 27,000-square-foot former Albertsons grocery store—is that it’s an all-volunteer endeavor. Each year, it comes together entirely from the efforts of the Pasadena Guild, a 300-member, all-female fundraising force dedicated to supporting CHLA.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of project,” Shelton says. “You wouldn’t believe how these ladies come in and work all day and all year to make it happen. And they do it with a sense of true commitment and passion for Children’s Hospital.”
That sense of commitment and passion has inspired the Guild to raise a staggering amount for CHLA—more than $34 million over the decades. Today, it’s the driving force behind the group’s newest project: a $3 million endowment to support CHLA’s pediatrician-in-chief.
The Pasadena Guild is one of the hospital’s 34 Associate and Affiliate (A&A) groups, which raise vital funds and awareness for CHLA across Southern California.
Founded in 1947—at the behest of legendary CHLA fundraiser Mary Duque—the Guild started with six women but quickly grew to 40 members. In 1948, the group hosted its first fundraiser: a fashion tea at Bullock’s department store in Pasadena. Today, the Guild is filled to capacity, with 75 active members and more than 220 sustaining and associate members. It hosts two annual fundraisers: the Treasures & Trivia sale—which grew out of a 1950s dollhouse sale—and the June Ball, a Southland tradition since the 1960s.
These hugely successful events have funded myriad critical programs at CHLA, including the Pasadena Guild Endowed Chair for Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine (held by David Warburton, OBE, DSc, MD, MMM, FRCP, FRCS, FRCPCH); endowments to support Pediatric Surgery, Adolescent Medicine, Pediatric Eye Cancer, and Bone and Soft Tissue Tumor Research; and a room in the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit.
"I've made incredible lifelong friends in this guild. People are working side by side and just having fun. It is tremendously bonding. These events are more than fundraiser— they're friend-raisers, too."
— Sarah Shelton
“The Pasadena Guild has contributed tremendously to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” says Paul S. Viviano, CHLA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The Guild’s long legacy of philanthropy has left an indelible imprint across our hospital. We are deeply grateful for the group’s enduring support.”
The Guild’s contributions to the Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine Program are particularly noteworthy. From 2003 to 2018, the Pasadena Guild funded three consecutive endowments—to the tune of $11.4 million—to support the lab’s research into human organ development, repair and regeneration. The funding has been integral to the program, which has grown to 20 faculty members and nearly 100 staff.
“These endowments have made a lasting impact on our programs and research, and on the children and families who come through our doors every day,” says Alexandra Carter, CHLA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer. “We cannot thank the Pasadena Guild enough for its extraordinary commitment and partnership with Children’s Hospital.”
In 2018, Guild members embarked on yet another project: the Pasadena Guild Endowed Chair for the Pediatrician-in-Chief and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs. The inaugural chair holder is Robert Shaddy, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and renowned researcher who joined CHLA as Pediatrician-in-Chief in 2017.
One of Dr. Shaddy’s many achievements is his leadership of the world’s only multicenter clinical trial of a medication for pediatric heart failure. His current research aims to develop future trials of novel therapies for children with heart failure.
“When we met him and learned about his work, we were compelled,” Shelton says. “We believe so fully in this leadership position, in the research that’s being done in coordination with it, and in Dr. Shaddy himself. We feel privileged to endow this important chair.”
As you might imagine, organizing a three-day, high-end rummage sale like Treasures & Trivia takes a fair amount of effort and good old-fashioned elbow grease.
Virtually the entire membership pitches in. The group collects quality merchandise from members, community residents and local businesses year-round. The women then sift through donations, organize them by “department”—furniture, clothing, jewelry, fine arts, electronics and more—tag them with bargain-basement prices, and store them in a warehouse (donated by a Guild member).
A month before the event, 18-wheeler trucks deliver everything to the sale site. The armies of Guild volunteers roll up their sleeves again—unpacking boxes, scrubbing and polishing items to perfection, and setting up stunning displays and nearly a dozen checkout stations. During the sale itself, more than 100 members work the weekend, from sunup to sundown.
“It’s impressive,” says Bonnie McClure, the longtime Chair of the Associates and Affiliates Committee at Children’s Hospital and a member of the CHLA Foundation Board of Trustees. “They start from scratch every year. It’s a lot of hard work, and they work fabulously together.”
And that’s just one fundraiser. The other half of the year is spent planning the June Ball, an elegant, white-tie, dinner-and-dancing debutante gala held at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena. The June Ball itself has been a Southland tradition for more than half a century and has honored more than 1,000 debutantes and families for their commitment to the community and CHLA. Each year, hundreds of guests attend the stylish gala, which includes a live orchestra.
“It’s a magical, joyous evening,” Shelton says. “Everyone is always so elated to be part of it.”
It’s also another all-members-on-deck effort for the Guild. But in case you’re wondering: No, these women don’t burn out. They remain members for years—often, a lifetime.
What drives them? A love for Children’s Hospital, definitely. But there’s another motivator: fun. “I’ve made incredible lifelong friends in this Guild,” Shelton says. “People are working side by side and just having fun. It is tremendously bonding. These events are more than fundraisers—they’re friend-raisers, too.”
The group includes a mix of women from various age groups and life experiences—from community activists and philanthropists to attorneys, professors and accountants. For many, the Guild is a family tradition. Several have mothers and grandmothers who were members.
Others have had personal experiences at CHLA. For example, years before Shelton joined the Guild, her son was successfully treated at the hospital for a GI condition at age 2.
The Pasadena Guild has contributed tremendously to CHLA. The Guild's long legacy of philanthropy has left an indelible imprint across our hospital. We are deeply grateful for the groups' enduring support.
— Paul S. Viviano
“I remember being so grateful Children’s Hospital was there, because they specialized so beautifully in exactly what he needed,” she says. “We are so fortunate as a community to have CHLA right here in our backyard.”
And Children’s Hospital, notes McClure, is fortunate to have the Pasadena Guild.
“In addition to raising money, the Pasadena Guild and all our A&A groups raise enormous visibility for Children’s Hospital,” McClure says. “Whenever they go out into the community, they shine a light on the fine work of CHLA. We are really lucky to have them.”