Attendees pose with stylish hats and colorful outfits.

The Steel Magnolias held their "Run for the Roses" fundraiser, a spectacular event crafted in the style of the Kentucky Derby to celebrate its 150th anniversary while supporting the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Woman’s Hospital Long Beach. This annual fundraiser was not just a nod to tradition but a critical effort to raise vital funds for a noble cause. Through an annual golf tournament, signature gala, and other imaginative events, the Steel Magnolias have raised more than $5.7 million over 25 years to benefit children and their families treated at the Stramski Center.

“Today showcased the collective spirit of giving,” says Bobbie Fesler, president, Steel Magnolias. “Each laugh, bid, and every cheer not only celebrated our Kentucky Derby theme but also reinforced our commitment to supporting the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center.”

The Stramski Children’s Developmental Center, supports and provides hope for families and children — from birth to age 21 — with behavioral and developmental conditions, such as autism, Fragile X, ADHD/ADD, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, behavioral sleep conditions and craniofacial abnormalities, like cleft lip and palate.

The “Run for the Roses” kicked off in high style, with attendees arriving in flamboyant derby hats and festive dresses, embodying the festive spirit of the Kentucky Derby. The waterfront setting of the Reef Restaurant offered a perfect backdrop, capturing the stylish arrival of guests and the Steel Magnolias—decked out in festive derby attire, greeting everyone warmly and emphasizing the compassionate spirit that defines their organization.

A lively atmosphere ensued as participants enjoyed a variety of games, a live auction, and a unique human-horse race that not only provided entertainment but also served as a metaphor for the competitive yet compassionate spirit of the attendees. The crowd’s excitement and engagement showcased the joy and celebration of the moment. While playful, this race symbolized the hurdles that children at the Stramski Center overcome daily, with the support of their families and the resources the center provides.

As hundreds of guests mingled, the air was filled with the sounds of laughter and music. The live auction was a highlight, with an animated auctioneer spurring the guests to raise their paddles, driving up bids in a lively display of generosity. The suspense and excitement in these moments were palpable, reflecting the community's commitment to supporting the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center’s vital work. Through generous donations and biddings, the Steel Magnolias raised over $120,000 for the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center.

“I am continuously amazed by the generosity and enthusiasm of our community,” says Gary S. Feldman, M.D., medical director, Stramski Children’s Developmental Center, Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach. “Events like ‘Run for the Roses’ offer a critical boost in our ability to serve children with special needs, enabling us to enhance and expand our services.”

The "Run for the Roses" event by the Steel Magnolias was more than just a celebration of a sporting tradition; it was a powerful display of community, compassion, and commitment to supporting children with special needs. Through the joyous celebration in Kentucky Derby style, the Steel Magnolias raised not only funds but also awareness and support for the essential services provided by the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center, ensuring that the race for better health and happiness for these children continues, inspired by the enduring spirit of the Kentucky Derby.