Executive director Donna Barranco Fisher and board president Tiffany Foster.

Gail Arnold

Executive director Donna Barranco Fisher and board president Tiffany Foster.

Storyteller Children’s Center Non-Gala a Big Hit

Casual BBQ for Major Donors Celebrates Raising More Than $200,000 Without a Gala

On Sunday, October 16, about 80 major donors of Storyteller Children’s Center gathered at the lovely Montecito home of Michael and Jessica Schaeman for a casual backyard BBQ to celebrate raising more than $200,000 without holding its annual gala.

This year, instead of holding its annual gala and asking donors to sponsor a table, Storyteller asked its donors to “sponsor a child.” By forgoing the expense of the gala, every penny raised directly benefited the children and families served by Storyteller. Donors heeded the call, many stepping up with a $15,000 donation, the average yearly cost of supporting one child and family.

Storyteller offers early childhood education to homeless and at-risk children ages 18 months through five years and comprehensive support services for the children and their families. Founded in 1988, it now has two centers that together serve about 100 children per year.

Guests mingled on the sprawling backyard deck of the Schaeman’s home surrounded by beautiful greenery. Some played bocce and ping pong, while others nibbled on tasty hors-d’oeuvres. A short program featured board president Tiffany Foster and executive director Donna Barranco Fisher, who shared poignant stories and thanked the guests for their generosity. Guests then enjoyed a gourmet barbecue dinner served buffet style with seating on comfortable lounge furniture and tables dotting the deck. In keeping with the “Non-Gala” theme, all the cooking and serving was done by volunteers. Bryan and Lisa Babcock, longtime Storyteller supporters, generously donated Babcock wines, so expenses for the barbecue were kept to a minimum.

The demographic served by Storyteller requires that it offer much more than the typical pre-school in order for the children to succeed. Storyteller bills itself as a “therapeutic pre-school.” It provides therapeutic counseling through a partnership with CALM (Child Abuse Listening Meditation). It provides health, vision, and dental screenings, as well as speech, language, and occupational therapy. All of these services are provided on site. It also provides a nutritious breakfast, lunch and snack daily. For parents, therapy, education classes, case management, and referral services are provided.

Fifty-seven percent of the children served are homeless, which is defined as living on the street, in shelters, or with multiple families in a single apartment. Their parents often suffer from substance abuse, domestic violence or medical conditions. One-third of the children served have developmental delays or disabilities.

Storyteller does receive some state and federal funding, but this covers only 30 percent of its budget. There are currently 90 children on the waitlist.

For more information or to make an online donation, go to

By Gail Arnold

Board president Tiffany Foster, event committee member LIzzy Peus, event committee member Jill Chase, and event chair Rachel Stein.

By Gail Arnold

Board members Alixe Mattingly, Julia Rodgers, and Carrie Towbes.

By Gail Arnold

Event committee members: Barbara Hage, Bethy Fineberg, Candi Hedrick, and Kristin McWilliams.

By Gail Arnold

Susan Van Atta and her husband, board member Ken Radtkey.

By Gail Arnold

Executive director Donna Barranco Fisher and board president Tiffany Foster.

By Gail Arnold

Tony Rogers enjoys a game of bocce with friends.

By Gail Arnold

Advisory board chair Kristin Linehan and director of development Delene Bliss.

By Gail Arnold

Board president Tiffany Foster addresses the guests.

By Gail Arnold

Guests enjoy the pre-dinner reception.

By Gail Arnold

Venue hosts Jessica and Michael Shaeman.

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