Local nonprofit to host inaugural fashion show to combat human trafficking

Arno, 13, and Vaugh, 11, Janoyan of Encinitas, pictured with music teacher Sona Baghdasarian (center).
Arno, 13, and Vaugh, 11, Janoyan of Encinitas, pictured with music teacher Sona Baghdasarian (center), are members of the Headaches Band, which will perform at the benefit.
(Courtesy of Lucy Janoyan)

The newly formed nonprofit San Diego Sparkles Foundation, which supports children displaced by war and at risk for human trafficking, will host Children’s Benefit Fashion Show & Luncheon on Sept. 17 at Hyatt Regency La Jolla from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The goal is to raise $250,000. Children from San Diego and throughout Southern California will participate in the show, with wardrobe courtesy of Macy’s Fashion Valley and Santori Designer Fashions in Solana Beach.

“Seeing all the news and everything going on with human trafficking and orphan children left after all the war going on, I started thinking about what we should do,” said Rancho Bernardo resident Kathy Kassardjian, founder of the organization.

Proceeds from the event will be distributed among the AMAA Orphan Fund, ECF Children’s Fund, Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition and the Donbas Orphanage in Ukraine, and event co-sponsor Trek 2 Share Foundation.

Kassardjian’s involvement with Sparkles stems from her experience fleeing Lebanon during the Civil War with her infant child. After first heading to Uruguay and then Canada, her family settled in the United States. She has lived in San Diego for 42 years.

“God has given us the opportunity to move here in this country and work hard, make a living, and now I think it’s time for us to work harder and give to other kids some food to put on their table,” Kassardjian said. “Some countries it takes $1 a day to have food on their table for a child to be fed.”

One of the highlights of the event will be keynote speaker Summer Stephan, San Diego County’s district attorney, who has made the fight against human trafficking one of the hallmarks of her career.

There are up to 8,000 human trafficking victims per year in San Diego, according to the district attorney’s office. Human trafficking is commonly associated with women and girls, but boys make up about 50% of trafficking victims in the U.S. LGBTQ youth face an especially high risk. Stephan has also issued tips to keep children safe. “I passed on [Stephan’s tips] to a number of people because I think often we live in a bubble that kind of distorts reality,” said Hillcrest resident Vonnie Madigan, a Sparkles volunteer. “We don’t want to hover, but we want to make sure the kids are safe. And I think, between our local situation and the international situation, those of us who are blessed enough to live in San Diego owe it to give back.”

Tickets range from $50 each for children 12 and under to $5,000 for a “runway elite table for 10.” For more information, email Sparkles Foundation can be reached at P.O. Box 676067, Rancho Santa Fe, 92067.