Rancho Santa Fe co-chair promises ‘Circus Nights’ will be memorable benefit for Rady Children’s Hospital


By Diane Y. Welch

The Rancho Santa Fe Unit (RSF Unit) of Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary has another “evening to remember” planned for its guests who attend its upcoming gala “Circus Nights” at the Grand Del Mar on Jan. 31, 2015.

“It will blow their minds,” said gala co-chair Sandra Den Uijl (pronounced “owl”).

Her partner chairing the event is Greta Sybert, with 14 women total on the planning committee. After eight years of using standup comedy for the gala entertainment, last year a new theme was introduced by then-chairwoman Roni McGuire, with “Bohemian Nights.” Guests enjoyed an elegant sit-down dinner accompanied by the musical talents of acclaimed performer David Garrett, said Den Uijl.

With the “nights” theme established, the book “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern sparked inspiration for the 2015 gala. Il Circo, a group of acrobatic performers similar to Cirque de Soleil, will provide the evening’s entertainment performing “Viaggio,” a theatrical story of a child’s dream.

VIP guests will be able to mingle and interact with performers from 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., the gala is open to general admission with a silent auction, mini-live auction, then sit-down dinner and live auction by Clint Bell, followed by the hourlong entertainment by Il Circo.

The after-party with DJ and dessert starts at 10 p.m. Funds raised will benefit the Sam S. and Rose Stein Emergency Care Center with a mission to create a new resuscitation room.

Den Uijl is an “accountant by trade and a little bit of a nerd by heart,” she said. Born in Texas, but raised in Mexico, she graduated with a double master’s degree in accounting and worked for many years in the corporate world in Mexico, retiring seven years ago.

“I had gone as far as I wanted to go, and life was taking me in a different direction.” said Den Uijl who now lives with her husband, Henny, in Fairbanks Ranch.

That decision left a void in her daily life. She asked herself, “What can I do with myself without becoming a nagging wife?” Being active in the nonprofit Las Damas de Fairbanks, Den Uijl was introduced to members who were also active in the RSF Unit and they invited her to see Rady Children’s Hospital for herself.

“I walked through the halls and it changed my life,” Den Uijl recalled. “I had never visited the hospital, as my kids were pretty healthy. I saw that these ladies were so passionate about it, and I had no idea it even existed.”

Den Uijl discovered her own passion, as she wanted to give back in thanks for the health of her boys, she said. “It was exactly where I needed to be.”

For the past five years, she has volunteered for the RSF Unit, doing almost “every role” to prepare her for the gala chair. “I think it is the accountant in me,” she joked.

The evening will have many surprises, with the silent auction being much more interactive than in prior years, said Den Uijl. But mostly “it is going to be a lot of fun,” she said.

To experience “Circus Nights” on Jan. 31, 2015 at the Grand Del Mar, visit the RSF Unit website at Tickets will be available soon.