It was a very special event. On Dec. 6, a luncheon was held at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells at which the co-founders of Childhelp visited the local chapter and were welcomed by a packed room of men and women who were brought together by their united passion to help and save abused children.
But first, a little backstory: For more than 60 years, Sara (Buckner) O’Meara and Yvonne (Lime) Fedderson — two actresses who met in the 1950s while playing the bubbly girlfriends of Ricky and David Nelson on TV's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" — have dedicated their lives to helping children in need.
Their mission began in 1959, when on a goodwill tour the women found 11 abandoned orphans on the streets of Japan that were considered "throwaways" because they were only half-Japanese, having been fathered by American servicemen. O'Meara and Fedderson smuggled the unwanted children to their rooms and bathed and cared for them.
The women then founded International Orphans as a way to support the 11 Japanese-American children they had taken in their care. They also ushered in life-long careers in fundraising by passing around a hat for donations after performing for servicemen. Thankfully, when our men in uniform learned about the children, they were eager to help.
Fedderson has received more than 100 honors and awards for her service to children, including the National Children’s Alliance’s Champions of Children Award, the State of California’s Legislature’s Woman of the World Award and the Women’s International Center’s Living Legacy Award.
Working with O’Meara, the pair have been given the Kiwanis World Service Medal, the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award, the University of California Riverside Chancellor’s Founder’s Award and have been recognized as Family Circle magazine’s “Women Who Make a Difference.”
In addition, the women have recently been nominated for the eighth time for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Over the past 62 years, Fedderson and O'Meara's never-ending passion for children and their welfare have led to both ladies putting in more than 70 hours a week for their cause, despite bouts with COVID, double pneumonia and other setbacks.
Fedderson and O'Meara also published a book in 2003 called "Silence Broken: Moving from a Loss of Innocence to a World of Healing and Love," which featured a foreword by actress Cheryl Ladd. The tome is filled with true stories as told to the authors by the children whose lives have been changed by Childhelp.
Back to the Dec. 6 luncheon: These two lovely octogenarians enthralled the audience with humble stories of their lives as young movie actresses, including their time in Vietnam and their hands-on work with children. The event included tales of traveling the country to promote help for children, which were mixed with love, antidotes, humor and, yes, sadness.
It's amazing to think that for more than 60 years, these women have put aside their acting careers to care for the welfare of children.
As Fedderson and O'Meara will tell you, every child needs an adult to be a voice when theirs can't be heard because of fear. And if it weren't for these two ladies, thousands of children might not have had a good life. The doors of Childhelp Coachella Valley are open, and the welcome mat means what it says. The organization's mission is to continue doing good work and continuing to pay it forward.
For more information about Childhelp, or to donate, visit childhelp.org.
Carole Stephen-Smith has lived in the desert for more than 30 years. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, she began writing in London and has been a regular contributor to The Desert Sun for six years.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that O'Meara and Fedderson have previously visited the Coachella Valley.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Childhelp founders make rare Coachella Valley appearance