Reef Rescue 2006 Annual Fundraiser for Reef Check

(L to R): Carol Conners, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Barbi Benton

"People protect what they love. We can't protect what we don't yet understand' - Jacques Cousteau.

Beverly Hills, Ca - It was a perfect day for the beach. The sun was shining brightly in the clear blue sky, a soft breeze gently waxed and waned, and the soft, soothing rhythms of the steel drums echoed through the air. Although we were not exactly at the beach, we were somewhere just as splendid: we were celebrating our beaches and oceans at the Reef Rescue 2006 Annual Fundraiser for Reef Check.



Reef Check is an international program that works with communities, governments, and businesses to scientifically monitor, restore, and maintain coral reef health. Reef Check objectives are to: educate the public about the coral reef crisis; to create a global network of volunteer teams trained in Reef Check's scientific methods who regularly monitor and report on reef health; to facilitate collaboration that produces ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions; and to stimulate local community action to protect remaining pristine reefs and rehabilitate damaged reefs worldwide.

Suzan Hughs' estate turned tropical paradise

In 1997, Reef Check conducted the first-ever global survey of coral reef health that provided scientific confirmation that our reefs are in crisis due to over-fishing, illegal fishing, and pollution. Since then, Reef Check's fast-growing network has expanded to over 60 countries, and has played a major role in efforts to preserve and sustain reef ecosystems. Reef Check teams work with business sectors such as tourism, diving, surfing and the marine aquarium trade, to develop mutually beneficial solutions including the creation of self-funding Marine Protected Areas.

Carol Conners performs for the guests

The ocean was not the only honoree on this Sunday afternoon. Jean-Michel Cousteau's, son of legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, received the Lifetime Achievement Poseidon Award for his unrelenting commitment to the research and preservation of our oceans. Mr. Cousteau's organization, Ocean Future Society, focuses on exploring our global ocean, inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean's vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet. Also honored were the dedicated, magnificent "Mermaids of the Reef" - The legendary Barbi Benton and two-time Oscar nominated songwriter Carol Connors.

Suzan Hughs graciously hosted the star-studded event

This splendid seaside soiree was graciously hosted by Suzan Hughes at her estate in Beverly Hills, Ca. In honor of our beloved oceans, Ms. Hughes' estate was transformed into a tropical island. An artificial reef display decorated inside and outside the pool. Brightly-colored coral adorning the bottom of the pool and electronic fish swimming to and fro. Balloons in the shape of octupii floated above the waterfall. Salt water taffy, and milk chocolate fish and mermaids decorated the silent auction tables. People could nibble as they perused the wide array of items available. The stress and smog of Los Angeles seemed to be worlds away as we enjoyed delicious ocean-themed appetizers like sushi and risotto served in a seas shell while listening to the sweet lullabies of the steel drums.

Barbi Benton and Lawrence Davis

The steel drums were not the only ones doing the entertaining. For a special treat, Carol Connors performed a special song, 'To Know Him is to Love Him.' This song, written by Phil Spector, catapulted Ms. Connors into super stardom while still she was still in high school. It was simply magical to see and hear this legend perform her break through song. Barbi Benton also performed a heavenly hula by the pool. But, the mermaids did not steel the show entirely. Mr. Coustaeu also said a few words when accepting his award. His love and commitment to the oceans illuminated every word that he spoke. We were in the presence of a great, great person who has dedicated his life to continuing his father's legacy and dreams of exploring, knowing, and loving the oceans. The humbled and silent audience hung on every word uttered by this soft-spoken, benevolent, and inspired man.

'Now more than ever, we know that everything is connected. Our own lives are profoundly affected by our actions toward the ocean' said Mr. Cousteau. And with that, celebrities, scientists, politicians, members of the media, and lovers of the ocean left the Reef Rescue 2006 Annual Fundraiser for Reef Check with an inspired twinkle in their eyes and a bigger part of their hearts reserved for our oceans.

Celebrity committee members, Kelly Hu and Kelly Slater

For more information on Reef Check, click here.

For more information on the Ocean Futures Society, click here.

Photographs courtesy of Big Media USA.

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