By Madeline Zuckerman

(Back Row) (left to right) Geoffrey DeVries, Walter Mueller, Jeremy DeVries, Mikki Kragenbrink, Stella Kragenbrink, Mikayla Kragenbrink, Bill Seals. (Front Row) (left to right) Tracy Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of Olive Crest Inland and Desert Communities, Trent DeVries, Chloe DeVries, Honorees George Devries (center) and Nancy DeVries.

Olive Crest recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary at a Gala Celebration with 1,200 guests in attendance from each State and Region Olive Crest serves.  This included guests and honorees from the Coachella Valley and Riverside.  Attendees gathered together from all over the country to highlight the vision of Olive Crest Founders, Dr. Don and Lois Verleur, and to also reflect on the expansive reach Olive Crest has grown to over the years.  Dedicated supporters of Olive Crest’s National and 7 regional branches were honored alongside top supporters from the food industry, an industry partnership that Olive Crest cultivated 33 years ago.

The night began with a crowd-pleasing 1970s medley performance from Imagination Entertainment, paying homage to the tunes of 50 years ago. Olive Crest CEO, Donald Verleur II, presided over this heartfelt night while Perry King, Actor, Olive Crest National Spokesman and Olive Crest Trustee, served as the evening’s host.  King recognized the event’s Title Sponsor Northgate Gonzålez Market, represented by their Executive Vice President, Mike Hendry.  Dr. Don and Lois Verleur were given a standing ovation from the entire ballroom, in recognition and gratitude for their vision which began in 1973.

(left to right) Tracy Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of Olive Crest Inland and Desert Communities, with Olive Crest’s Founder’s Awardees Dr. James Brinton and Lorraine Brinton. The Brintons are Founding Board Members of the Olive Crest Desert Communities Chapter.

“For The Kids” was echoed by each and every supporter who took the stage that evening during this glorious celebration.  Everyone present was an invested member of the Olive Crest family. The testimonials from adults who found family within Olive Crest’s care as a child, did not leave a dry eye in the house, with cheers erupting from the crowd when Diana shared that both her children and herself were currently enrolled in college. The importance of Olive Crest’s work . . “One Life At A Time”® . . . was emphasized over and over again throughout the evening.


The surprise of the evening was a $200,000 matching pledge by Bill Potter, Managing Member of Message Broadcast of Newport Beach, who is also a member of the Olive Crest Board of Directors.  This combined with the successful and robust silent auction raised over $1 million in support of Olive Crest that evening.

(left to right) Dr. James Brinton, Founding Board Member of the Olive Crest Desert Communities Chapter, Lorraine Brinton, Founding Board Member of the Olive Crest Desert Communities Chapter, Dr. Donald Verleur, Founder of Olive Crest, Lois Verleur, Founder of Olive Crest, and their son Donald Verleur II, CEO of Olive Crest.

Imagination Entertainment performed several more medleys in recognition of all the decades of Olive Crest’s mission.  Before the 2000’s medley began the dance party, Executive Directors from each of Olive Crest’s branches stepped forward to recognize the numerous recipients of the Founder’s Award, Olive Crest’s highest honor given to those who have contributed significantly to Olive Crest through distinguished humanitarian contributions, leadership, and personal dedication.  Recipients of the 2023 Founder’s Awards were James Woodside, Dave Grosse, Mickie Sharp-Villanueva, Dr. David & Mrs. Diana Casey, Diane Sanders, Joe Asher, Chuck & Lorraine Clegern, Stan & Jessica Morrison, Dr. James & Mrs. Lorraine Britton, Sue Pebley, Henry & Karen Pritchett, and Daniel & Sarah Zia.

Tracy Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of Olive Crest Inland and Desert Communities, with 2023 Champion of Children Awardee George DeVries.

During the elegant VIP Reception, Olive Crest’s Executive Team handed out the Champion Of Children Awards to individuals who exemplify Olive Crest’s values, to recognize them for their passionate and faithful support to provide resources and awareness to further Olive Crest’s mission.  Recipients of the 2023 Champion of Children Awards were Jill Muckenthaler, Seth Cohen, Scott Drew, Rocco Farello, Jerry Forbis, Rob McDougall, Lupillo Ramirez, Richard Wardwell, Russ Warnick, Steve Bernardy, Paul Cannon, Friends Church of Yorba Linda, Tommy Bahama Newport Beach, Gretchen Valentine of Rancho Santa Margarita, Rachel & Kevin Bechler, Erin Burke, Mae Nelson, Pacific Crossroads Church Los Angeles, Debbie Presson, Spyro Costopoulos, Jennifer Ronquillo, Sean Harns, Roy & Carrie Watson, George & Nancy DeVries, and the Chiles Foundation Santa Barbara.


Since 1973, Olive Crest has transformed the lives of over 200,000 children and their families. We were tirelessly to meet the individual needs of kids in crisis by providing safe homes, counseling, and education for both Hughes and parents. Our many innovative programs reflect our conviction that strengthening the family is one of the most powerful ways to help heal children. And 98% stability rate is a testament to the lifelong commitment and unwavering compassion that the Olive Crest family maintains to the children and families we serve, even after they have graduated from our programs.

Olive Crest serves 5000 children and families each day throughout the western United States. For information, please call 800–550–CHILD (2445) or visit