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by Anne Batty
A passionate person is defined as one having intense emotion and strong feelings about what they do, and that description seems to fit Peggy Vance, San Clemente’s Ocean Festival Executive Director, to a tee.
With a background in Real Estate, interaction with people has always played an important part in Peggy’s life. And as she explains it, her passion for community involvement stems from the giving spirit of people … those fun-loving residents that willingly come together to make things happen.
“The oft-used expression it takes a village resonates in San Clemente,” Peggy remarked. “A tremendous amount of people are needed to make any community event a success. And one of the first things I noticed about living here was the willingness of the residents to pitch in and get the job done.”
The Vance family became residents in the early ‘90s. Their move from the largely populated Phoenix, AZ desert was precipitated by the desire to be nearer their extended family. And along with the enjoyment of familial closeness, they found the area’s seaside village living to be exactly what they were looking for.
“Once we were settled we immediately began meeting residents and making friends through participation in the events at my son and daughter’s schools,” Peggy explained. “Everyone was so friendly and welcoming we felt like we had lived here all our lives.”
Never one to stay idle, in 1995 upon asking Dan and Deanna Botello (who volunteered selling T-shirts at the Ocean Festival) how she could get involved, she began helping in that booth. While working there she had the time of her life, and couldn’t wait to be asked again for the next year. Her passion had been ignited and she was definitely hooked.
“Working at the Festival was so much fun,” she enthused. “It was another great way to meet more people, residents and visitors alike. But the best part was seeing all those people enjoying the day and having a great time together.”
Since that first opportunity to work the T-shirt booth at the Ocean Festival, Vance has been involved in almost every aspect of the event, from participant, to volunteer recruiter, to board member/officer, and culminating as Executive Director. Over the years she has seen well-known and little-known San Clemente families volunteer their services to make the event a success, and she says the beauty of the affair is the fact that people from all walks of life, means, professions, beliefs, interests and ages come together, forget their cares and just enjoy their time together.
Along with her involvement in the Ocean Festival, Peggy has found time to volunteer her services to various other community events and organizations including the local Cub Scouts, Friends of San Clemente, the Senior Center, Stoke-o-Rama, the Triton Booster Club, and many more philanthropies too numerous to name.
Along with Tony Struthers of Saddleback Memorial Hospital and local restaurateur, Mary Carbonara, Vance’s latest involvement includes Heart Chase, an innovative community event held annually in May to promote healthy living and support the American Heart Association. This two-hour team based event starts and ends at the San Clemente Presbyterian Church, and consists of performing wacky physical activities at designated stations along a pre-determined route. Participants are sponsored by family and friends who make donations based on how the teams finish.
“We held the first event last year (2013) and it was hilarious,” Peggy laughed. “I am really looking forward to this year’s event, but this time I will watch the action from the sidelines. The activities involved were a lot more vigorous than I anticipated,” she quipped.
Of her involvement in these many philanthropies, Vance says, “I couldn’t do what I do without the encouragement, support and help of the stars in my life - husband Chris, son Jeff, daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Alessio, and of course our first grandchild, Chantall. They’re my glue. I’m grateful also for the help of my many friends and for the opportunity to meet and work with a multitude of selfless, like-minded people. I love collaborating with a variety of groups on the different events and activities that I’ve been involved in – all working together because of a common bond benefiting our children, families and the community.”
Although she continues to be a very busy lady, Peggy does take time out to travel with her mate of 32 years. Two of their most exciting escapades have included visiting Ireland during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and vacationing in Washington DC during the Tea Party Rally. But no matter how far they travel, the Vance family is always happy to return home.
“When we hit that bend on the Interstate 5 overlooking Dana Point, the temperature drops 10 degrees and we know we are home. We can’t think of a better place to live, and it’s the only place we truly want be,” Peggy said.