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Volume 15, Issue 42  | May 26, 2023Subscribe

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Pacific Marine Mammal Center holds celebration to kick off “Catch the Wave” capital campaign

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On Saturday, May 20, Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) welcomed more than 300 guests from across the community to celebrate and kick-off the “Catch the Wave” capital campaign.

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PMMC CEO Glenn Gray spoke about the next wave and needed funds

This public kick-off culminated years of collaboration with city and county officials and meticulous planning to build a revamped Center that can meet the growing needs of both their animal and human communities.

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A few of the PMMC board members (L-R): Dr. Dan Haspert, Tom Hale, Phil Shuluk, John Kinney, Jeff Meberg and Lisa Locklear

PMMC CEO Glenn Gray and board members addressed the crowd sharing that, “$6.2M of the $14M project cost has been raised to date and we are looking for leaders in the community who inspire to make a difference with us to help complete the funding.”

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Stephanie Cunningham (second from right) with her daughter Laura Cunningham (far left) and granddaughter Bella with Laguna Beach Lifeguard Michael Chapman. Stephanie’s husband, John Cunningham, was one of the founders of PMMC (then called “Friends of the Sea Lion”) in 1971.

Gray also shared that, “Eighteen months from now you may not recognize the little red barn in the canyon. The capital campaign we are celebrating today is not about funding an expansion, it’s about funding a transformation. Our hospital protocols, educational programs, visitor experience and our water savings will transform what we do and how we do it.”

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“The Dream” expansion project

The expansion doubles the square footage allocated to those and other educational programs, which already serves 35,000 students per year.

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Ed Steinfeld, KX FM morning host, served as “Catch the Wave” MC

Additional patient units and pools will improve patient care and increase capacity, better preparing the hospital for busy periods and “unusual mortality events,” years in which conditions so deteriorate for marine mammals that patient occupancy can quadruple from its normal numbers.

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PMMC CEO Glenn Gray with Chair of the Ocean Club Marilyn Green

The expansion will add cutting-edge treatment rooms for surgeries, endoscopy, ultrasound, radiographs and other medical needs. A dedicated necropsy space will improve the facility’s research capacity, facilitating improved collaboration with other institutions.

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PMMC board members, Dr. Alissa Deming (second from left), staff and friends pose with Center mascots

According to PMMC’s Vice President of Conservation Medicine and Science Dr. Alissa Deming, “The expansion provides the opportunity to grow the marine mammal teaching hospital and facilitates training the next generation of veterinarians and researchers dedicated to marine mammals and ocean health.”

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Kathryn Burton Gray (Glenn Gray’s wife) with Laguna local Greg MacGillivray, co-founder of MacGillivray Freeman Films

They have designated space at the main entrance as the Founders Courtyard to highlight John Cunningham and Jim Stauffer, their founders more than 50 years ago. They also wanted to include the rich history of the artesian community at PMMC.

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Laguna Hills High School cheer squad welcome guests to the event

PMMC commissioned artists Casey Parlette and Mike Tauber to bring this idea to life and their contributions will be enjoyed by generations to come.

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Artist Casey Parlette with his son talking about the Founders sculpture he designed for PMMC

Parlette designed and built the Founders statue, a work in bronze and steel depicting a sea lion swimming in kelp to reach his dinner of silver fish. When installed, this statue will stand nearly 18” tall and greet every guest who visits.

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(L-R) Dr. Dan Haspert (PMMC board member) with artist Mike Tauber with design for bench for the PMMC fundraiser

Also in the Founders Courtyard will be a ceramic tile mosaic view of sea lions and marine creatures created by artist Mike Tauber that will frame the statue along a 30’ wall.

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Iconic Ornaments Co-founder Jackson Collins, who along with his brother, Sawyer, launched their company in 2021, and have their glass creations such as the Laguna Lifeguard Tower and Trolley, for sale in the PMMC gift shop

Tiles are available with a $1,000 donation and gives you the opportunity to paint the tiles with Tauber.

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Youngsters are learning about caring for injured sea lions

For more information on the project and to learn how you can participate in this historic opportunity, contact Debra Finster, vice president of philanthropy at 949.929.7297, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, go to slideshow below:


Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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