Rancho Santa Fe philanthropist helped make ‘Royal Couple’s’ visit to LA a success
By Diane Y. Welch
ContributorThe excitement generated by the recent visit to California by the newly married Prince William and Catherine, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made news headlines around the world. And as Los Angeles played host to the “British Royal Couple,” Lena Evans, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, quietly took her assigned place on the “Royal Detail” in her stride.
Evans has a strong commitment to philanthropy with many years devoted to charitable service. It was her tireless volunteer work that brought her into the inner circle of “Will and Kate” with her important role as hostess during their weekend tour in early July. She is also an active supporter of The American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, Inc., a charity that benefits at-risk youth, the conservation and protection of natural resources, and military families — causes Evans is passionate about.
Preparations for Prince William and Kate’s visit began a year ago, with Evans’ participation starting six months into the process. There were many people involved, from both the UK and the USA, so coordination was critical, she said. “Each event had their own group of people. There was the State Department, local police, Royal security detail, Prince William’s foundation personnel, private secretaries, and more.” Initially it was Evans’ job to advise and comment for the various events and venues planned during the Los Angeles visit, and then to serve as hostess at each visit.
The tour was a whirlwind of activity with the first stop on a Friday, July 8, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel where the Royal couple attended a debate on the future of UK-based digital and creative companies organized by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). A reception at the residence of the British Consular-General, Dame Barbara Hay, followed the debate.
On Saturday, Evans flew by helicopter to attend the Foundation Polo Challenge in Santa Barbara, then returned to Los Angeles for an evening gala at the Belasco Theater where the British Academy of Film and Television Arts celebrated “Brits to Watch 2011.” Sunday’s events included a patron reception at the home of television producer Steve Tisch for the Tusk Trust, followed by a visit to the Inner-City Arts’ campus. The weekend was rounded off with “Service Nation: Mission Serve’s ‘Hiring Our Heroes’” military job fair at Sony studios.
Evans serves on the board of the Got Your Back Network (GYBN), a charity aligned with Prince William and Prince Harry’s charitable focus on military families. GYBN was invited to take part in the “Service Nation: Mission Serve” event. Evans took as her guest Mary Ellen Bancroft, a San Diego-based military widow. “I introduced her to William and Kate and she told them the story of how her husband was the first casualty of war just after the 911 attacks,” Evans said. The couple were clearly moved by her story, she added.
They also appeared relaxed and “down-to-earth,” Evans said. “He introduced Kate with, ‘This is my wife, Catherine’, it was very cute.”
A British Royal connection began a decade ago for Evans when she won a charity golf tournament in Las Vegas. The prize was to travel to the UK to be a guest at Windsor Castle, playing the private Royal household golf course and dining with the princes.
“I assume they were quietly checking me out and getting to know me,” Evans recalled as she was then asked to serve as the first and only chair of the United States for The Duke of Edinburgh Cup, a fundraising program of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International. She was also asked to host the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s first joint visit to the United States. “I must have made a good impression on them [the Royal family] as we have been connected since then,” said Evans.
Proud to support the high-profile Royal visit, but not “phased or impressed” with her unique role, Evans was recently in the spotlight herself when she was honored with the “Hometown Heroes Award,” for her service to the community, country, and the world. The award was given on the 4th of July at the San Diego County Fair by 96.5 KyXy’s Sam Bass. Evans is CEO for the Jade Phoenix Corporation that oversees grants and manages the marketing of organizations that support charitable causes. She is active in many local charities, including Fashion Group International, San Diego Symphony, San Diego City Ballet, Rady Children’s Hospital, Country Friends and more.