The Malibu Times Hosts the 27th Annual Dolphin Awards Ceremony

The Malibu Times 2016 Dolphin Awards recipients, from left: Joan House, Fran Pavely, Ryan Sawtelle, Mike Mulligan, Lily Castro, Patt Healy, John Sibert, Ife Houzell, Dillon Eismann and Burt Ross

In what might be the first time in 27 years of The Malibu Times’ annual Dolphin Awards ceremony and brunch, it rained. At the start of the 11:00 a.m. event, invitees still scurried across PCH with umbrellas in order to get to the Malibu West Swim Club venue on time. But the rain clearly didn’t keep anyone away — the room was packed with current Dolphin winners, past winners, plus-ones and local officials.

The awards ceremony was hosted and emceed by Arnold and Karen York, publishers of The Malibu Times. At the end of each year, they solicit nominations for the awards with a series of ads in the paper — usually choosing one award for a business, two Junior Dolphin awards to high school students, and another half-dozen individuals and local nonprofit organizations. 

At the start of the awards ceremony, Marcello Gindlin, Cantor at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue, gave a benediction before performing a song on the guitar. 

“Being from Argentina, I can tell you about the tango, horses and pampas,” he joked, “but about dolphins, I know nothing.” He researched dolphins and discovered they are peaceful animals, their sonar helps break up negative energy in humans, and they “work as a community to surround each other and protect the weak.

“Today, like the dolphins, we surround our community with a protective energy,” Gindlin said. 

Each Dolphin Award is presented by a former Dolphin Award winner.

Patt Healy — Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth

Kian Schulman of Poison Free Malibu said Patt Healy has “worked selflessly for Malibu since cityhood” by starting the Coalition for Slow Growth in 1992 and taking an environmental stance against various proposed development projects over the years. Healy was also involved in recently getting the city to purchase the 35-acre Trancas Field as park space, and started the Malibu Monarch Project to help save Monarch butterflies.

“Due to her compassionate nature, she also rescues older, abandoned dogs,” Schulman said. “It’s hard to imagine Malibu without her.”

In accepting the award, Healy said, “I never thought I’d get this award. In 1991-1992 (just after cityhood), my friend called and said, ‘Patt, we must do something about all the developers at City Hall trying to get their projects through.”

In response, she got involved in developing the city’s first General Plan and Local Coastal Plan (LCP). “That gave us the tools we needed to make sure only appropriate projects got through,” Healy said. “Projects needed to be developed sensitively, protecting our natural resources. What makes Malibu special from other beach communities is its open spaces.”

Ryan Sawtelle — Pepperdine “Waves of Flags” creator

Ryan Sawtelle won a Dolphin for creating the “Waves of Flags” event on the lawn of Pepperdine University for two weeks around 9/11 every year, beginning in 2008. The full-size flag display, which is open to the public and fully visible from PCH, represents each of the lives lost on 9/11, with a total of 2,977 flags (2,887 American and 90 international). It requires over 150 volunteers.

Ani Dermenjian, in presenting the award, said the display was “a show of American spirit and reverence that is an inspiration, and also a way to remember our veterans.” She explained how getting the display to become a reality “was not an easy task” for Sawtelle, who had to solicit donations. She noted he was recently chosen for Pepperdine’s “40 under Forty” alumni list.

In addition to the flag display, Sawtelle is founder of the White Heart Foundation, a military foundation that gives 100 percent of its donations to injured warriors for life-enhancing equipment and services. The nonprofit’s projects include the Guardian Project, a partnership with Action TrackChairs for heroes, and the annual “Ride to the Flags” event — a motorcycle charity ride from Naval Base Ventura from Point Mugu to Pepperdine.

“In the nonprofit industry, you don’t do anything for recognition,” Sawtelle said. “You do it because you see a need and you want to address that need … You can find what your passion is and take action.”

Lily Castro — Harvey Baskin Business Leadership Dolphin Award

Lily Castro, a longtime small business owner of a Mexican restaurant and bakery named “Lily’s Malibu” in Point Dume Plaza, was honored with the Harvey Baskin Business Leadership Dolphin Award.

“When Lily was selected to receive a Dolphin, Arnold York remarked that one of the reasons she deserved the award was for putting up with Doug O’Brien who, along with his cantankerous group of curmudgeons, has occupied a couple of tables at Lily’s for over 25 years,” Laureen Sills said. “State Senator Henry Stern says she’s the best breakfast burrito maker in the world. Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte drives all the way from Big Rock just to get his wife Lorraine a Lily’s burger.”

Sills described Lily’s fight with breast cancer this year, when she arrived at her first chemo treatment on Halloween dressed as Wonder Woman. She also told how Lily came to the U.S. as an immigrant, learned English, worked hard to create her “local landmark” with husband Abel (who passed in 2008) and raised daughter Lindsay.

An emotional Castro, in accepting the award, said, “Thank you everyone who supported me the last 30 years, especially the people of Malibu … I immigrated here when I was 17 and thank you for your support.”

Malibu Task Force on Homelessness

The Malibu Task Force on Homelessness consists of co-chairs Jay Scott and Pamela Conley-Ulich, and members Burt Ross, Joan Ross, Dr. Connie Shafran, Dr. Renee Kaswan, Rev. Paul Elder, Matt deNicola and junior member Cooper deNicola. 

The group, which began in February 2016, focuses on raising the money needed by The People Concern (a social service agency based in Santa Monica) to address the needs of homeless individuals in Malibu. So far, they’ve raised $300,000, and two full time outreach workers began working in Malibu last fall. 

Steven Weinberg, before presenting the award, noted that his own grandparents escaped from Russia and lived in a coldwater flat in New York, sometimes without enough food. “But they at least had a roof over their heads,” he said — unlike the homeless.

“Homelessness is not anonymous; they’re real people,” Weinberg stated. “They include veterans coming back with no support, abandoned women in their 50s and 60s, transgender and LGBT kids. In 10 years we’re going to have a real culture of homelessness … It’s wonderful they’re addressing this very real issue.”

Burt Ross accepted the award for the group. “The People Concern outreach workers have been gradually building trusting relationships with Malibu’s homeless to link them to services,” he said. “Their efforts will safeguard those individuals as well as the community. A total of 39 have been enrolled as clients with case managers and eight individuals are now off the street.” 

Dillon Eismann — Junior Dolphin

Misael Espinoza, past Youth Dolphin winner, said Eismann is a junior at Malibu High School who has “made a difference to both his school and his community” by being junior class president and the founder of MHS’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) chapter, which started off with one member and grew to 45 members.

In accepting the award, Eismann was proud of the fact that gay students at MHS feel comfortable there. “I want people to feel comfortable with who they are,” he said. “In a survey, over 70 percent of LGBT students at MHS feel comfortable discussing their sexuality on campus, a remarkably high number compared to other schools. Our goal is to help members feel empowered by who they are.”

Ife Houzell — Junior Dolphin

Houzell, a member of the Boys & Girls’ Club, has a one-hour commute each way in order to attend MHS. As a member of the Boys & Girls Club, she was selected for SMART Girl training, which is a health, fitness, prevention/education and self-esteem enhancement program for girls. She also attended Leaders in Training, learning how to become a volunteer, mentor and/or role model to younger members; and went to summer camp for four years.

Houzell was very emotional in accepting her award from previous Youth Dolphin winner Violet Miehl. “Violet has been with me since the sixth grade, and been with me through the hardest times,” she explained. “I have a learning disability and I’ve been bullied, and … also had body image problems. I can now stand here and say I’m confident and I feel accomplished. I’m here for all youth with learning disabilities, which don’t define you. Don’t let the haters get you down.”

John Sibert — Eight years on city council, former mayor

Sibert has been active in the Malibu community for over 30 years. He started off even before cityhood by joining the Malibu Township Council, where he played a part in negotiating with the county to avoid a massive development-inducing sewer project. He also co-founded Save Our Coast. Sibert later served five years on the Planning Commission, and was elected to two four-year terms on Malibu City Council from 2008 to 2016. During his eight years in office, he served two nine-month terms each as Malibu Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem.

Laura Rosenthal, who served with Sibert on City Council, described him as a “Renaissance man” with many talents, many areas of knowledge and many interests. She said he could discuss anything from PCB contamination at the school to the perfect blend of scotch.

“He was always the perfect colleague,” Rosenthal said, and turning to him, added, “Your Dolphin is richly deserved and very belated. You’re a real-life man of science who uses facts to make decisions.”

“It’s humbling, knowing the accomplishments of other people who got these awards,” Sibert said in his acceptance. “I treasure it.”

“It’s been a pleasure and sometimes a pain [on City Council]. I served a lot of great people. We seemed able to disagree reasonably and still move forward.” At which point, he expressed some reservations about the new City Council being able to do the same.

Sibert said he is continuing to consult in the scientific community, including a recent stint at NASA/JPL.

Mike Mulligan — MHS water polo coach 

Tim Hazelip introduced Coach Mulligan, calling him an “inspiration” and a “fellow waterman” with 31 years of coaching experience — 26 of them at Malibu High School. Mulligan received the California Coaches Association (CCA) 2015-16 Coach of the Year Award, and during his tenure at MHS has coached the Sharks to 18 league titles, three CIF runner-up finishes and one CIF championship. 

“But the most important thing is his commitment and his connection to the Malibu community,” Hazelip said. “He’s more than a coach. Sometimes, he’s also a parent.”

Mulligan recalled that he was only 15 when he got his first chance to coach, and said that’s when he first “found the love and the passion” for the job. During college he coached at camp, and after graduation was hired by Agoura Hills.

“Then in 1991, MHS hired me for water polo, but they had no pool for three years — we had to use Pepperdine’s,” he recounted to audience laughter. 

“I have a simple philosophy,” Mulligan said. “A hard work ethic; the idea that it’s ‘we, not me’ on the team — we’re all family; and have fun … I’d like to thank all the great student athletes I’ve had. I’m not up here without all of you.” 

Fran Pavley — California State Senator and State Representative for Malibu

Madelyn Glickfeld said, “Fran is my friend and colleague — she’s a walking demonstration of what a public servant can do with a passion for making changes.” She recounted Pavley’s political career starting off with City Council in Agoura Hills, her appointment by the Senate to the California Coastal Commission (“a goldfish in a bowl of piranhas”) and 14 years of representing Malibu despite all the redistricting. 

Glickfield summarized Pavley’s most important Malibu accomplishments: Water bonds to support Legacy Park, rejection of a proposed golf course, co-chair of the PCH Task Force and help fighting a proposed LNG facility off the coast. She also cited a long list of district and statewide accomplishments and even some positive national and international impacts that Pavley has had, including a number of groundbreaking environmental initiatives.

In accepting the award, Pavley said “Malibu and Agoura Hills have been my only constants after 13 years [and the redistricting].” She talked about passing the baton to the “younger generation” — namely newly elected State Senator Henry Stern, her protégé, after her term limits. 

State Senator Henry Stern was in attendance and wanted to say a few words to his hometown. “I want to acknowledge my mentor, Fran Pavley, and all the recipients today. Fran talks softly, but the big stick is there. Mulligan has trained so many young leaders. Lily, thanks for feeding me for the last 20 years — you started a bakery and became an institution in the community. This is my home — you guys taught me how to be me. There’s a sense of humility and generosity that most people don’t realize exists in Malibu. We’re laid back, but we’re ferocious if you cross us. And we’ll need all that spirit to endure the rocky next four years.”

State Assemblymember Richard Bloom was also in attendance, and presented a surprise award to The Malibu Times on the occasion of its 70th anniversary as a newspaper and its 30th anniversary of being owned by the Yorks. “The press is under unprecedented attack,” Bloom said, and praised the paper as well as all small newspapers for bringing communities together. 

Joan House was recognized for her many years of public service to Malibu. She had previously received a Dolphin Award, but was invited to speak since she recently termed out of city council. 

Karen York acknowledged other officials in attendance, including Joe Apodaca for Congressman Ted Lieu, Fiona Nagle for Sheila Kuehl, Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman, Malibu City Council Members Lou La Monte, Rick Mullen, Laura Rosenthal and Jefferson Wagner, Planning Commissioner John Mazza, Asst. Fire Chief Anthony Williams, LA County Sheriff Dept. reps Josh Thai, James Royal and Scott Houston, SMMUSD School Board member Craig Foster, and Malibu Times staff members.

The Yorks asked those attending to remember Ozzie Silna, a Dolphin Award winner who died in the past year. 

In addition, they gave special thanks to sponsor Debra Bianco of the Cornucopia Foundation, Steven Weinberg of Holmes Weinberg for pro bono work on The Dolphin Foundation’s 501(c)3 status, gold sponsor Malibu Village (Jade Auzanne, Michael Altunkaryan and Sandi Turner), party planner Mary Higgins, Monrose Catering (Donna and Richard Chesterfield), Semmler Family Wines, Malibu West Beach Club and Trader Joe’s.

This story has been updated to correct the name of a 2016 Dolphin Award winner.