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Transforming Lives Dinner 2017

Event Raises a Record $550,000 For Financial Assistance



The Bishop O’Dowd High School community is celebrating its most successful Transforming Lives Dinner fundraising event in its history. The event was held on campus and raised $550,000 in support of its financial aid program.


Funds were raised from a combination of corporate and personal sponsorships, ticket sales and paddle raise donations. The event raised 90% more than the prior year and saw an additional 55 attendees.


The event was chaired this year by Greg Onken and Tina Canales and Kevin ’88 and Amy ’89 Hester. The committee included Annette and Tom Counts, Melissa Heller and Steven Douglas, Louisa and John Tallarida and PJ and Lionel Vaughn.



The Transforming Lives Dinner drew parents, Board members, past parents, faculty and staff and over 50 alumni to the school. Guests were treated to a reception in the small gym and a formal dinner in the large gym with the O’Dowd String Orchestra providing beautiful music. We were fortunate to have three eloquent speakers share remarks about the importance of financial aid and the impact of an O’Dowd education.


Elizabeth Cabraser ’70, the co-founder of the powerhouse law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein, is one of the nation’s leading class action litigators. She spoke about her career in law and passion for justice, and discussed her involvement in landmark litigation on behalf of Holocaust survivors. She was among class counsel for the nearly $1.5 billion reparation settlement for survivors, their families and successors against banks, private manufacturers, and other corporations who looted the assets of Jews and other minority groups persecuted by the Nazi Regime.


Elizabeth Cabraser ’70
Guest and Elizabeth Cabraser ’70

“Anything that I have been able to accomplish in my career that is good I think owes itself to the experience I had and the benefits I received from my education at O’Dowd,” she said. “I would fervently hope that each of us will do everything we can to make sure that as many students as possible have that opportunity as well because we need them to be forces for justice and love in action in our world more than ever before.”


Cabraser jumpstarted the paddle raise portion of the program, committing $100,000 for financial aid.



Guests also heard from two current O’Dowd students who shared moving stories about the academic opportunities, growth in confidence, and community of support they have received while at O’Dowd. Added Isaiah Henry ’18, “Without you I wouldn’t be the man, the student and the friend I am today.”


Following the speaker testimonies of the impact of an education that transforms lives, emcee and past parent Steve Burke, led the paddle raise portion of the evening. The powerful testaments to transformative power of an O’Dowd education inspired the community to raise $326,000 during the paddle raise.


President Steve Phelps remarked “The O’Dowd community, once again, demonstrates the incredible impact of a community coming together to achieve a goal. As we saw here tonight, O’Dowd students and grads are the extraordinary citizens needed to create a healthy and hopeful future. We are enormously grateful for the generosity we’ve seen tonight.”


Lisa Coffey-Mahoney photos -


Briana Loewinsohn photos -



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