Charity Ball

Past chairmen

Loving people is at the Heart of Southwest Airlines, and one of the many ways we connect with people is by building meaningful relationships in the communities we serve. By fostering these authentic partnerships, Southwest Airlines proves its commitment to making a difference. This month we’re proud to showcase the longest running charitable event in San Diego, The Charity Ball that benefits Rady Children’s Hospital which is providing impactful work of improving children’s health. Celebrating its 114th Anniversary in 2023, the Charity Ball has always helped kids and those without a voice of their own.


Charity Ball


San Diego’s Charity Ball is the grande dame of fundraising parties – a formal, black-tie dinner and dance dating back to 1909 that is an integral part of the social and philanthropic fabric of San Diego. Since 1953, the Charity Ball has exclusively benefited Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. Local families have played significant roles in carrying on the Charity Ball tradition. Familiar San Diego names show up on committee rosters and chairs of the event. Many families make a point of kicking off the year with invitations to join them in their “box” next to the dance floor.

Since its first year in 1909, the Charity Ball has always helped kids. The Charity Ball founder, Lena Sefton Clark, led the way, and the first Ball raised $1,570 (over $50,000 in 2022 dollars). Over the years, the Charity Ball has been directly responsible for increasing excellence in patient care through the purchase of equipment, funding of programs and services. The incredible success of the Charity Ball has been made possible by thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time and talents and the funds it provides to the hospital through the beautiful Souvenir Program containing hundreds of pages of family and business photos celebrating the outstanding and crucial work done by the dedicated physicians and staff at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. The end of World War II, particularly important to San Diego as a Navy town, saw a “Victory Ball” celebrated in 1946, and United States involvement in the 1991 Gulf War led to hundreds of American flags being incorporated into the Charity Ball décor that year.

Continuing the tradition, the 114th Anniversary Charity Ball, Come Fly with Me will be held on February 4, 2023, at the Hotel del Coronado. Danitza Villanueva has been entrusted to serve as the first Latina Chairman and this year’s beneficiary is the Chadwick Center for Children & Families at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, a department that provides services of health and well-being to abused, neglected, and traumatized children and their families. “My hope is that together we change the lives of those without a voice of their own,” shared Danitza Villanueva. The essential services delivered by the Chadwick Center can only exist through the power of grace, understanding and support that has been the hallmark of the Charity Ball’s support of Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego.

The Chadwick Center’s children have benefitted from a San Diego community that gives back. “Without the help of our sponsors such as Southwest Airlines, we would not be able to raise the funds to help children and families. The funds will directly help children and their families feel safe and supported after experiencing a traumatic event and move towards healing,” added Danitza.

It is estimated that one out of four children experience some type of abuse before the age of 18. An average of five children a day die from abuse and neglect. In 2021, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego staff made more than 2,150 mandated reports of child abuse to Child Welfare Services.


As overwhelming as the idea of abuse and neglect is, trauma counseling works. At the Chadwick Center, they provide short- and long-term trauma-focused therapy services to children (0-18) and their non-offending caregivers. The Center’s therapists are skilled at using therapy practices to help children manage their traumatic stress reactions, including nightmares, aggression, anxiety and distractibility, while lowering their risk of depression, self-harm and suicidality.


Your philanthropy will support these and other programs that keep the Chadwick Center at the forefront of helping these children with trauma.

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Esteban Villanueva