Coastal Gala Honorees

To find out more on each honoree, click on their photo to read their bio.

Joseph (Joe) Baldo, Higher Ground Youth & Family Services - 2023

Joseph (Joe) Baldo, Higher Ground Youth & Family Services - 2023

Veronica Stephens - 2023

Veronica Stephens - 2023

Dr. Joseph Bryant, Jr. - 2023

Dr. Joseph Bryant, Jr. - 2023

Raymond (HR) Fleischman, One More from the Heart Run - 2023

Raymond (HR) Fleischman, One More from the Heart Run - 2023

Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen - 2023

Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen - 2023

Stephen Ashwal, MD - 2023

Stephen Ashwal, MD - 2023

John & Cheryl Sweeney - 2023

John & Cheryl Sweeney - 2023

Linda Rank, PA-C - 2023

Linda Rank, PA-C - 2023

Jim Birmingham - 2023

Jim Birmingham - 2023

Tina Murphy - 2023

Tina Murphy - 2023

  • Joseph (Joe) Baldo, Higher Ground Youth & Family Services - 2023
  • Veronica Stephens - 2023
  • Dr. Joseph Bryant, Jr. - 2023
  • Raymond (HR) Fleischman, One More from the Heart Run - 2023
  • Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen - 2023
  • Stephen Ashwal, MD - 2023
  • John & Cheryl Sweeney - 2023
  • Linda Rank, PA-C - 2023
  • Jim Birmingham - 2023
  • Tina Murphy - 2023
  • Joseph (Joe) Baldo, Higher Ground Youth & Family Services - 2023

    A life filled with service is a life with purpose. In 2007, Joe Baldo went in search of meaningful service that would highly impact those in need. He was eventually led to Juvenile Hall in Orange in 2008. After three years of experiencing the harsh reality and recidivism in the juvenile justice system, Joe knew that these youth desperately needed direction and a support system upon their release. Joe began a small ministry which grew rapidly, so he founded Higher Ground Youth & Family Services (HG) in 2012. Joe has formed collaborative agreements with university partners to help at-promise youth experience service-learning classes and behavioral health internships. Enrichment programs prepare youth ages 7-17 for lifelong learning and resilience. Joe has also ensured that low-income and under-resourced youth have access to youth development programs, academic tutoring, literacy development, STEM education, art and music therapy, a variety of sports, a community garden, a kitchen, free meals, and a dedicated family wellness center providing counseling, all at no cost. In 2019, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force approached Joe to help create a human trafficking prevention program which is now presented by HG teams to junior high and high school students, as well as foster youth and youth in the juvenile justice system. As HG evolves, new initiatives and services continue to expand as HG develops programs that provide a strong and reliable foundation upon which youth and their families can build a healthy and thriving future. Joe goes above and beyond to make his community a positive place and to make a lasting and positive impact on the community’s vulnerable youth!
  • Veronica Stephens - 2023

    Veronica Stephens is the Education & Outreach Department Manager for Laura’s House; a nonprofit that offers education and comprehensive services to domestic violence survivors in Orange County. She has been instrumental in the creation and implementation of community workshops, such as, Healthy Family Series, How to Help, Unpacking Family Systems, and other successful DV adult education curriculum. Their target population is families experiencing the effects of domestic violence in need of emergency shelter, support, education, and counseling. Laura's House operates on the philosophy that domestic violence is multi-dimensional and often cyclical in nature and must be addressed through a range of interventions. Their goal is to provide supportive service programs that will prepare clients and their children to live independent and violence free lives, with an emphasis on education and prevention for future generations. Veronica is also a speaker and guest lecturer at high schools, universities, and at national conferences. Formerly the President of Action Force Network, Veronica created and developed human trafficking curriculum and presentations with topics including Links Between Homelessness and Human Trafficking, Protecting Children in a Digital Age, and Links Between Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking. She has been endorsed as an outstanding educator by Newport Beach Deputy Chief of Police for in-class instruction. In addition to her countless radio, print and TV interviews, Veronica’s story of survival and work with victims was featured on an international TV program impacting over 30 million viewers around the world. She has been an Angel on Earth for countless families in need!
  • Dr. Joseph Bryant, Jr. - 2023

    Dr. Bryant has served as an advisor and consultant for professional sports organizations, athletes and families since 1999. He assists them with career transitions, business development and life management, helping them to find their true purpose on and off the field. His network of current and former athletes is committed to assisting sports professionals, organizations and ministry groups in serving the greater good. Dr. Bryant is the National Sports Director for Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, serving as a liaison and partnership coordinator with the NFL, NBA, NCAA, and Major League Baseball. He is also Executive Director of the PUSHTECH Silicon Valley Diversity Project, assisting in the development of collaborations with the tech industry and providing access to opportunities within the digital space. Dr. Bryant helped create the SPORTSTECH & FAITHTECH programs within the PUSHTECH platform as specific initiatives to help bridge the digital divide. In 2016, Dr. Bryant was featured in USA Today as a pioneer in leading churches in the development of Faith and Technology Programs through collaborations with multiple Silicon Valley Companies. In 2018 he was named as the one of the Top 10 Champions of Diversity by Global Diversity Magazine for his influence in the sports industry, faith community and youth empowerment through technology. Dr. Bryant also serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Calvary Hill Social Services, overseeing corporate partnerships, civic collaborations and community programs in education, job training, food security and family services. Dr. Bryant is also the Executive Director of The K.I.N.G. Movement, a National Men’s organization founded by NBA Analyst Chris Broussard, to empower men to fulfil their God-given potential in every realm of life. Dr. Bryant is truly an Angel on Earth and Angel Light Academy is privileged to honor him tonight.
  • Raymond (HR) Fleischman, One More from the Heart Run - 2023

    For 30 years, Raymond (HR) Fleischman has humbly given one more from his heart to Totally Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. With a list of the children’s needs in hand, each fall he begins his journey of inspiring others to give from their hearts – toys, clothes, technology, money – for the children in residence at Totally Kids. And on the day of delivery each November there are as many as 600 motorcycles from all around southern California caravanning from Chopper Place to Totally Kids bearing gifts and lots of love. HR’s commitment to the annual ‘One More From the Heart Run’ not only provides funds for outings for the kids, needed clothing, toys, books, and games, but also the great joy donors feel when they see what they have given. HR travels many miles to recruit clubs, families and individuals to join together to bring joy to hundreds of children and their families, and once they join, they keep coming. His genuine love of giving in service, ‘doing the right thing’, is a blessing not only to the children but to the donors who develop new friendships while participating and experiencing the joy of sitting with a child and holding her hand or seeing the delight in a child’s eye when they receive a gift they have wished for. A humble man, HR finds purpose in this shared great adventure with friends and their many contributions to the project. He is tireless in his efforts to recruit participants and raise funds for the hospital and looks forward to the project’s continuance for many more years to come. He says of Totally Kids that “the work they do is so vital and so appreciated.” HR is an angel on earth with a huge heart and passion for helping children in need.
  • Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen - 2023

    Laura Herzog is the Founder and Executive Director of Honoring Our Fallen, a Veterans support service like no other! They provide support for Families of Our Fallen, specifically during the Transfer of Dignified Remains. As soon as they find out that a loved one is returning home for burial, they immediately determine the family’s needs and requests, and provide the support needed. After working in Southern California to support the Families of our Fallen Heroes, Laura Herzog realized that Casualty Assistance Officers (Army) and Casualty Assistance Calls Officers (Marines) have a lot on their hands when one of our Heroes is returned home. Laura’s help has bridged the support gap between the military and their Families. After working with the military, she decided she also wanted to assist other Heroes – Police, Fire, and Rescue Heroes – who sacrifice their safety and time away from their Family every day to protect us at home. Laura and her team have established relationships with local Patriot Guard members, local law enforcement and firefighters to ensure the Fallen Hero receives a motorcade to the burial site and other services appropriate to them and their Families. They also link families to organizations who provide other support services such as counseling, financial support, housing assistance, etc. Honoring Our Fallen also provides retreats for widows, mothers, sisters, and other women with fallen service members to provide them with support, the chance to develop relationships with others who understand their journey, and some pampering. Lauren and her team also work collaboratively with Anaheim Police Association, Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, and many local donors and volunteers to honor more than 200,000 Heroes with flags in their honor during Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Laura is truly an Angel on Earth, fully dedicated to our country’s Heroes and their families!
  • Stephen Ashwal, MD - 2023

    As a medical student at NYU, Dr. Ashwal decided he would like to take care of children, largely on the strength of two summer electives: the first in child psychiatry service at Great Ormond Street, and the second in Holland, where he was able to see patients with the famous pediatrician Dr. Simon Van Creveld. Upon graduation, Dr. Ashwal was recruited to the Child Neurology section at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. He has spent his entire career there, excelling as scientist, clinician, and teacher. He has served since 1976 as Co-Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Clinic. He became Chief of Child Neurology in 1995. Dr. Ashwal has a remarkable publication record, including 160 original papers and reviews; a large percentage have been published in high impact journals. The studies have contributed importantly to the understanding of the developing brain and the impacts of disease and trauma. He and his collaborators have evaluated treatment options and the validity of various imaging that allow more accurate prognostic formulations. Dr. Ashwal has played a particularly important role in those concerning Concussion, Intracranial Mass Lesions in AIDS, Autism, First Nonfebrile Seizure, Global Developmental Delay, Recurrent Headache, Migraine in Children and Adolescents, Cerebral Palsy, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Infantile Spasms, and Status Epilepticus. He has been in demand as a visiting professor and lecturer throughout the United States, Canada, South America, China, Italy, and Turkey. Dr. Ashwal is a member of the Board of the International Child Neurology Association. He was a founding member of the Executive Board of the Child Neurology Foundation and has served as a Board Examiner for twenty years. Eminently approachable, he is known by all as a person of vision, integrity, and concern for others and a laudable record of carrying others along with him in the process.
  • John & Cheryl Sweeney - 2023

    A civil rights attorney in the Los Angeles area, John has a 40-year history of advocacy for marginalized people through his law practice, taking the difficult cases that no other firm will take. His work on groundbreaking police excessive force cases has brought him an international reputation. He is known nationally and internationally for his exposure of violent gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, resulting in sweeping changes in law enforcement. In addition to a thriving law practice, John makes time to train junior attorneys in trial advocacy, and about diversity in the legal profession. John understands the importance of educating the next generation of attorneys. He lectures throughout the world on various topics in the legal field. His clients comment that he is attentive, understanding and caring, taking time to carefully explain the court processes they will encounter. At his side is his wife, Cheryl, who shares his advocacy of the marginalized. She has been actively volunteering with youth for over 30 years. She has a passion for teaching youth leadership and teaming skills, problem solving, the value of attending school, and developing compassion and empathy for others. She has served as a Youth Director and uses music and drama to help youth to develop a voice, to empower them to speak their truth, and improve critical thinking skills. She has served as a mentor to several dropout youth and successfully helped them to graduate and find sustainable careers with healthy life management skills. Cheryl has devised and implemented parent involvement strategies to low-income, low-literacy parents to increase school attendance and graduation rate. From 2009 – 2013, Cheryl served as a board member of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. John and Cheryl Sweeney are angels on earth to their entire community and beyond.
  • Linda Rank, PA-C - 2023

    Linda Rank has been a practicing Physician Assistant specializing in Dermatology since 2001. Although she claims specializing in Dermatology came out of necessity and accident of chances, she now acknowledges that it was destined and has become her calling. Linda is one of the early experts of the aesthetic industry. After a decade of recognizing that so many of her patients were craving basic knowledge of aesthetics treatments, she wrote a book “Take Charge of your Beauty.” Her book educates readers on the basics of Botox, Fillers, and skincare to help create confidence in choosing their treatments. A lover of personal development, Linda asks her patients to redefine what beauty looks like. A true believer that our outside beauty truly is reflected from one’s mindset and self-talk, she approaches her treatments in a more personal matter. Linda truly believes that her needle is not a cure for the heart and is meant to support a person with confidence. Linda’s heart for service began in the 1980s when she volunteered for a suicide hotline for Santa Cruz County. Later she worked closely with the HIV community as an HIV Counselor with UC Santa Cruz and offered hope and support where they often could find none. Linda strives to build hope in others and in her community. She opens her business venue for events to support groups that make an impact in the local community. She donates generously and keeps each event focused on the cause. She is an active chamber member and shows up to support local businesses and participate in their community events. She is also active with the Gold Rush Cure Foundation. Linda’s drive to build hope has shaped her personally and professionally. Her clients and her community always get the best of her!
  • Jim Birmingham - 2023

    Catering, Inc. is known as Orange County's Premier Event Caterer. Chef Jim is dedicated to working with community purveyors, supporting local farmers and using quality local sourcing, when available. For nearly four decades, Chef has been nutrition-focused in his approach to gourmet, farm fresh style while providing an impressive presentation of fine food. Chef Jim’s creative approach to American and international cuisine has received accolades from his clients, both private and corporate, including Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warriors Project, former President George H. Bush, the Oakland Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers and countless other private and corporate clients. As an active credentialed culinary instructor, Chef's commercial kitchen serves as a teaching facility for local bakers, personal chefs and, will soon host accredited cooking classes for kids and adults. He has been a Culinary Arts teacher for the Career Technical Education department of the Santa Ana Unified School District for 10 years. His students are given a chance to do service through many high school events. Chef Jim donates the food, and the service hours are a chance to give the students job training. He also provides paid work opportunities for students during the school year and over the summers, and many have been inspired to pursue a college education in Culinary Arts. Chef Jim maintains exceptionally high standards in food quality, safety, and in the education and service he provides. His generosity is often felt at school, community events, and non-profit events, where he donates quality food and service. Chef Jim’s leadership and service began early in his adulthood when he served his country in the military and as a highway patrol officer. After a close call, he chose to refocus his life on quality food, students, and the community. That new focus has provided an outlet for his giving, making him a leader in service.
  • Tina Murphy - 2023

    Tina Murphy is the Video and Television Production teacher at Northwood High School. Her passion, commitment, and strong energy have guided countless students and pushed them to be their very best. Tina is the type of teacher who is committed to listening and observing the strengths and challenges of each individual student, helping them to develop their unique strengths, find their own passion and define their own personal goals. Her students have produced short films that promote awareness of social issues, raise money for philanthropic organizations, recruit volunteers for worthy causes, and discourage dangerous choices like drug and alcohol use. Community beneficiaries this great work include Second Harvest Food Bank, Families Forward, the Illumination Foundation, and the Northwood HS PTSA. These films have been shown on school campuses, Career Fairs, and on cable television, reaching a large audience with very positive results. Students become committed to making a positive difference in their communities after creating films addressing social issues. Tina’s students know that she cares for them, pushes them, and helps them to develop their creative strengths. The awards that line the walls of their classroom/studio show that students are truly learning the technical and “soft skills” they need to be successful. Recently they have garnered recognition in both technical and creative competitions, winning awards such as the Orange County Film Festival “Best Student Broadcast” (2007), National Student Television Network “Best Music Video” (2006), and ChannelOne.com Spring National “Best Original Short Film” (2007), among others. Tina recently earned the Mentor of the Year award for her excellence in mentoring and teaching. She truly goes above and beyond in all she does for her students!
  • Joseph (Joe) Baldo, Higher Ground Youth & Family Services - 2023
  • Veronica Stephens - 2023
  • Dr. Joseph Bryant, Jr. - 2023
  • Raymond (HR) Fleischman, One More from the Heart Run - 2023
  • Laura Herzog, Honoring Our Fallen - 2023
  • Stephen Ashwal, MD - 2023
  • John & Cheryl Sweeney - 2023
  • Linda Rank, PA-C - 2023
  • Jim Birmingham - 2023
  • Tina Murphy - 2023