Local Planned Parenthood supporters named honorary chairs of anniversary event


By Kelley Carlson

Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest just celebrated its anniversary — and received a very generous gift.

Seven donors — six of them local residents — contributed a combined $350,000 for the organization’s annual fundraising dinner on May 3 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, according to Keith Limberg, vice president of development. (About 1,500 people attended the event, which raised more than $1 million.)

As a thank you, Planned Parenthood named the following people as honorary chairs of the event:

• K. Andrew Achterkirchen of Del Mar, a former board member of PPPSW and current board member of Fronteras Unidas Pro Salud, a sister affiliate in Baja, Mexico. The retired electrical engineer volunteers daily in the pre-calculus class at the Preuss School in La Jolla and at the after-school Barrio Logan College Institute. He has supported PPPSW for about 20 years.

• La Jolla residents Rita and Richard Atkinson. Rita has a doctorate’s degree in psychology and is a former PPPSW board member; Richard is former president and regent of the UC system, and former chancellor of UC San Diego.

• Former PPPSW board member and longtime supporter Joan Bernstein of La Jolla. She is also actively involved with the La Jolla Chamber Music Society.

• Paula and Herb Engel of Rancho Santa Fe, who are longtime donors to PPPSW. Herb is a former board member of the organization. Currently, he is president of Marine Group Boat Works, a full-service boat and yacht repair facility that specializes in refits, repairs and new construction of boats up to 220 feet long.

• Community leaders Joan and Irwin Jacobs of La Jolla. Irwin is the founder of Qualcomm, and the couple are longtime PPPSW supporters.

• Rancho Santa Fe couple Gwendolyn and Jay Meyer. Gwendolyn is a director of Feeding America San Diego, which provides millions of pounds of food to children, seniors and adults locally each year. She is also a director of the Aqualia Foundation and a trustee of the Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad. Gwendolyn also competes nationally and internationally in horse jumping competitions, and is a director of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation.

• Christy Walton — a longtime donor to PPPSW, especially for cross-border educational activities — lives in Wyoming, but often visits San Diego. She is the widow of John T. Walton, one of the sons of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

The group was feted during PPPSW’s 49th anniversary dinner, which featured a speech by Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards. Richards was recently named to the TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, for the second consecutive year.

Other highlights of the program was the presentation of the Champion of Choice Award to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., for her speech on the House floor defending Planned Parenthood’s funding in 2011; a performance of original monologues inspired by patient stories; and a $49,000 Challenge Match sponsored by the Strauss Family Foundation and the Flaster Family Foundation.

Planned Parenthood’s Pacific Southwest branch has been in existence since 1963, and operates 19 health centers in San Diego and Riverside counties, with future plans to include Imperial County. It aided more than 300,000 patients in 2011, offering services such as cervical and breast health screenings; contraceptive care; and the prevention, testing and treatment of STDs. It also provides educational programs such as Teen Success, which helps support young mothers; offers information and care to migrant populations through its Promotores program; and administers the Gardasil vaccine — which helps protect against the human papillomavirus, or HPV — to young people in Baja California through its mobile health center, lowering the cases of genital warts and cervical cancer.

“Planned Parenthood provides services ... that are extremely important to the health and well-being of individuals,” said Achterkirchen, who was on the branch’s board from 2004 to 2009 and currently serves on the budget and finance and audit committees.

“While Planned Parenthood gets reimbursed for many of the services it provides and the things it does, it some cases, it does not,” the first-time honoree added. “For example, we provide medical services at below cost for low-income individuals who don’t have health insurance and cannot afford to pay the full cost of the services they receive. Much of the comprehensive sex education we provide is not reimbursed. Our community outreach efforts to make individuals aware of our services is not reimbursed, nor are our communications activities to inform the media about our positions on important public issues. The Anniversary Dinner not only provides an update for our supporters about our activities, but also is the primary fundraising event for the organization. This fundraising is crucial to allow us to continue to do the many important activities for which we are not reimbursed.”

Another first-time honorary chair, Herb Engel, also strongly supports PPSW’s mission. He has been involved since the mid-1990s, commencing with the start of his two three-year terms on the board, and he is currently on the budget and finance committee.

“I think it’s a strong, well-run organization,” he said. “I like the goals it has.”

Herb — who regularly attends the Anniversary Dinner — added that he knows his donations are being well-used.

“Paula and I were honored to be recognized for our continued support of such a fine organization,” Herb said.

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