28th Annual Dolphin Awards Recognize Outstanding Community Service

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Dolphin Award Winners pictured, from left: Battalion Chief Anthony Williams, on behalf of Malibu firefighters; Bianca Torrence; Marshall Thompson and Susan Tellem of American Tortoise Rescue; Youth Dolphin Sabrina Carey; Sky Stipanowich; Laura Rosenthal; Catherine Malcolm Brickman; Lou La Monte; Suzanne Keith Zimmer; Front row: Youth Dolphin Dylan Friedman Almond. Not pictured: Reverend William Kerze.

In what has become a 28-year-long local tradition, the publishers of The Malibu Times and founders of the Dolphin Foundation, Arnold and Karen York, hosted the 28th annual Dolphin Awards and brunch on Saturday, March 3, for a packed house at the Malibu West Beach Club. This year, 11 individuals (including two Youth Dolphin Award winners) and one organization were selected through a nomination process for going above and beyond the call of duty to make life better for others in the local community. 

Arnold and Karen York kicked off the event by noting that despite Malibu’s small size, there has never been a shortage of worthy nominees for the awards—even after nearly three decades. Each year, they try to choose winners that represent a variety of community services and deeds. Nominations that don’t win are kept for consideration in following years. 

Although the annual awards were administered by The Malibu Times newspaper in the past, they are now being handled by the nonprofit Malibu Dolphin Charitable Foundation, which was recently established by the Yorks to support and help fund future Dolphin Awards. 

“We want to see this go into perpetuity,” Arnold said.

Karen thanked all those “who continue to serve our community year after year” and asked for remembrance of Dolphin awardees who passed away over the past year: Rabbi Benjamin Herson, Leon Cooper, Carol Dillon, Rich Davis, Luciana Forge and Patricia Greenwood.

Among the hundreds in attendance were State Assembly Member Richard Bloom, State Senator Henry Stern, former State Senator Fran Pavley and representatives from the offices of LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, plus Malibu city council members Laura Rosenthal, Lou La Monte, Mayor Pro Tem Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, and Mayor Rick Mullen. Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Williams, Lt. Jim Royal and Dep. Mike Treinen of the LA County Sheriff’s Department were also in attendance.

Father Kerze of Our Lady of Malibu offered a benediction “for our city and our world.”

The Yorks acknowledged Malibu Village as a gold-level sponsor of the event, and Pepperdine University as a silver-level sponsor. In addition, they thanked the following Dolphin friends:  Mary Higgins for party planning, Monrose Catering, XO Blooms for flowers, Steve McPeters Band, the Malibu West Beach Club, Semler Family Wines and MaliBalloons.

Awards were presented to each individual or group by a previous Dolphin award winner:

Sky Stipanowich

Sky Stipanowich has been serving as chair or  co-chair for the annual Harvest of Hope event at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Malibu—a wine tasting fundraiser event held for the past 10 years—raising nearly $20,000 per year for over a half-dozen local charities, as well as national and international charities that benefit the homeless and disadvantaged. She is also well-known for frequently volunteering her time for various activities throughout the community. 

Her award was presented by Marnie Mitze, vice president and chief of staff at Pepperdine University. 

“Sky has been a vibrant member of the Malibu community since 2006,” Mitze said. “For two years, she co-chaired Harvest of Hope, where she was a go-to person, and previously had a successful career as a television newscaster.”

In accepting, Stipanowich said, “I’m here with my St. Aidan’s crew… I want to dedicate the award to my parents, because my father’s memorial service was 22 years ago today… I’m honored to be a member of the pod.”

Catherine Malcolm Brickman and Suzanne Keith Zimmer

Catherine Malcolm Brickman and Suzanne Keith Zimmer, both members of Malibu’s Cultural Arts Commission, were nominated for working together to bring the outdoor “Concert on the Bluffs” event to Malibu two years in a row, with the third event now being planned. The events, which have attracted sold-out crowds, are held on the lawn at Malibu Bluffs Park with ocean and mountain views on a summer afternoon with performances by 35 world-class musicians and guest dancers from the New York City Ballet.  

Musical Director and Conductor of the event, Scott Hosfeld, a Malibu resident and former member of the Cultural Arts Commission, presented the award to Brickman.

“Her extra donation of time and her experience gave Malibu world class music in a world class location,” he said. “It was a huge labor of love bringing soloists from the NYC Ballet.” 

“She represents the iceberg, with 90 percent below the surface that nobody sees,” Hosfeld continued. “There is a rehearsal of only four hours with everything coming together in the two days before the event.” Brickman “turned lemons into lemonade” with some last-minute costume design emergencies. “She’s a quiet leader and a genuine jewel in making Malibu a better place,” he finished.   

In accepting the award, Brickman invoked the lyrics of The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” tune: “How did I get here?”

“Why ask ‘Why?’ when you can say, ‘Why not?’” she quipped.

She recalled pitching their idea for Concert on the Bluffs to the city’s Administration and Finance committee. When she told Council Member Lou La Monte how much she wanted, he said, “That’s very robust for something we never tried before.” She suggested that if the city gave half, she would somehow raise the other half, and the challenge was on. Brickman met the challenge, but not without a lot of stress—she found a matching donor that gave her only 24 hours to raise another half.

Steven M. Weinberg, founder of Holmes Weinberg PC, serves as an active board member and pro bono legal counsel to several Malibu nonprofits and provides support to many others. He presented the award to Zimmer.

“We have people here with such extraordinary passion and vision,” he said. “The Concert on the Bluffs isn’t just an event; it represents what we can be if we only get together and create. When I met Suzanne, there was so much sunshine and passion. She has a degree in Art History and is now making history.”

Zimmer, a Malibu native, said, “This success is not possible without a shared vision. I hope we’ve laid enough track to continue the tradition.”

Reverend William Kerze (“Father Bill”)

Father Bill is retiring this year after 23 years as pastor of Our Lady of Malibu Church. Anonymous parishioners described him as a man who brought the congregation together, a spiritual and intellectual individual with compassion, enthusiasm and faith; and an inspiration for doing more to help those in need. He has been performing all of the sacraments that bring his church community closer together since 1996—including baptisms, marriages and funerals; and ministers to the students at Our Lady of Malibu School.

The award was presented by parishioner and former Malibu mayor and city council member Ken Kearsley. 

“He’s a man who’s dedicated his life to others,” Kearsley said. “That’s the embodiment of Bill, and few people in the world do this. He’s a true romantic, a Renaissance man and a geologist who brings a rock to his sermon and says, ‘Isn’t this beautiful?’”

Kerze said, “Years ago, I read a book by Max DePree—‘Leadership is an Art.’ He said the responsibility of a leader is to define reality, and to become a servant and a debtor. I have greatly strived to be a servant and I have felt like a debtor. I accept this award on behalf of all our parishioners.”

Sabrina Carey

About four years ago, when she was in 8th grade, Youth Dolphin Award winner Sabrina Carey lost everything, including her dog, when the family house burned down. She and her family were left homeless, but the local community helped them find housing and rebuild their lives.

Within weeks of experiencing homelessness herself, Carey started helping other homeless people in Malibu and Mexico. She delivered supplies to families living in cardboard boxes. The Malibu High senior then learned of The Hope Mill Foundation and brought it into the Torch Club at the Boys and Girls Club, putting together backpacks full of care items for the homeless. She’s in charge of gathering local donations and has attended local Homeless Connect Day events. 

Dillon Eiseman, a Youth Dolphin winner from last year, praised Carey’s “impressive” work for the homeless since the age of 13. 

“She volunteered to help the less fortunate in downtown LA, has gone to Mexico, and now works with the Boys & Girls Club and Hope Mills Foundation,” he said. 

Sabrina said she was thankful for the opportunity to run the Torch Club.

Dylan Friedman Almond

Youth Dolphin Award winner Dylan Friedman Almond, 10, the youngest ever Dolphin honoree, first got the idea for Dylan’s Trail Mix to feed the homeless as a tiny girl, when she and her mother volunteered at the Methodist Church Thanksgiving dinner. In preschool, she asked, “What will they have to eat after they leave?” For six years now, she has gotten her schools and her friends to make and hand out hundreds of bags of trail mix for the homeless at Thanksgiving. She hopes to spread her idea to other communities, and started a website with a how-to video. 

Dillon Eiseman, a Youth Dolphin winner from last year, said, “Even elementary students can be changemakers.”

Dylan thanked many people, including her mother for being her “personal driver” in allowing her to accomplish her goal. 

Lou La Monte

Former State Senator Fran Pavley summed up Lou La Monte’s many public service accomplishments: “He has been Malibu mayor and city council member for eight years and has had 30 years of involvement in the community, starting off with his homeowner’s association and Little League. He helped get Malibu Bluffs Park permanently for the city. 

“I worked with him on the Regional PCH Task Force,” the former senator continued. “He’s been very involved in the drug and alcohol rehab and sober living facilities issue, trying to curb overcrowding of these facilities and their impacts on our neighborhoods. He’s been president of the California Contract Cities Association, which has 76 cities, and has gone to Sacramento to discuss these issues. He was always well prepared and articulate in these meetings, and has served Malibu well.”

La Monte said, “I’m happy to receive this award from one of our heroes. This room is a ‘Hall of Fame’ for Malibu, and I’m very proud. Arnold [York] and I grew up three blocks from each other in Brooklyn and we never thought we’d be in front of you here today. Being mayor and city council member was never on my bucket list growing up in Brooklyn, but I’m proud to have served my friends and neighbors. I still get phone calls thanking me for the left turn signal at PCH and Big Rock.”

He introduced his entire family at the table; and urged people to consider running for one of two city council seats that will be open next fall. 

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson

Married couple Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson were the first in the U.S. to start a national turtle and tortoise rescue when they began their nonprofit American Tortoise Rescue and sanctuary in 1990; they have rescued more than 4,000 turtles and tortoises in that time. Nearly 100 special needs animals are kept on their own property and the rest are adopted out to good homes. 

Sherman Baylin, presenting their award, said, “What they’ve been doing is an amazing job for these quiet endangered animals, which may only be remembered in fables in the future. They educate, they change the laws, and help turtles being sold at markets. A $100 annual membership in American Tortoise Rescue helps them go to Sacramento to help these animals that have been here for 200 million years, these animals that cannot speak for themselves.”

In accepting, Tellem said, “We’re trying to stop the effects of smuggling and the cruel pet trade. We work to stop the sale of live animals on Craigslist. Never buy a turtle or tortoise, because so many are available for adoption. As an all-volunteer organization, all donations go directly to the care and feeding of the animals, as well as a veterinary fund for pet owners who can’t afford a vet bill.

Thompson talked about the World Turtle Day “shellabration” on May 23, which is celebrated in more than 50 countries. 

Bianca Torrence

Bianca Torrence organized Malibu’s first official LAHSA homeless count in January 2014, and has headed up the annual homeless count for Malibu every year since. She is also a co-founding member of Malibu CART (Community Assistance Resource Team) for helping the homeless, a volunteer member of the Malibu Association of Realtors Ethics & Grievance Committee, president of the Malibu Rotary Club, raises funds for underprivileged children in her home country of Peru, and volunteered at the Malibu Playhouse.

Her son, Olympian David Torrence, passed away in August 2017 after representing Peru in the 2016 Olympics. Bianca hopes to pass on his legacy by setting up programs with the Peruvian Sports Federation and Institute to help young athletes learn the importance of education, sports, discipline and good nutrition.

Maggie Luckerath described Bianca as “unique and without ego, and so thorough and detailed.”

Torrence said, “I fell in love with Malibu in 1980 when I arrived from Peru and never dreamed I’d be living here and getting this amazing award. I feel you are my extended family. It’s bittersweet for me after losing David, an Olympic track and field runner, and I dedicate the award to him.”

Malibu firefighters

Karen York said the firefighters “Have saved us many times this season, and many times in seasons past.” Everyone in Malibu acknowledges their debt to the local firefighters of the LA County Fire Department. At the announcement of the award, the firefighters received a standing ovation from all gathered.

Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Williams was on hand to present the awards to Malibu’s fire stations No. 71, 99 and 88, which were represented by Fire Captain (Mayor) Rick Mullen, Fire Fighter David Trujillo and Fire Captain Drew Smith.

“Dolphin pods have anywhere from two to 13 dolphins to accomplish a task, and we group our firefighters to various tasks, too,” Williams said. 

In recalling the huge wildfires battled in December in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, Williams said, “At one point, we had 15 strike teams (five engines per strike team) out of the County of LA; yet not at any one time was any station in the county not covered.” It took a gargantuan effort on the part of every member of the LA County Fire Department to pull that off. 

Laura Rosenthal (Certificate)

Laura Rosenthal has served Malibu as mayor and city council member for the past eight years, and her many accomplishments in public service were cited by Karen York as she received a certificate—Rosenthal earned a Dolphin Award in 2001.

Laura referred to the two seats coming up for City Council next fall.  “I’m the only woman on City Council, and that’s the first time this has ever happened,” Rosenthal said. “Malibu always had two, and I’d like to see more. I think women look at things differently, and I hope some are interested in running. It’s a difficult job, but the most rewarding job you can imagine.”

Closing remarks by State Senator Henry Stern

“My mom is a Dolphin Award recipient. There are some serious leaders in the room today who really care about the community,” Stern said. “Malibu is not just an idea on Instagram; it’s a real place with real people. I always think we need to wear this city’s spirit as a badge of honor.”