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Spotlight on Philanthropy logo

Are you doing your fair share?

Philanthropy is the lifeblood of nonprofits throughout our community and across the country. Kindness funds help to the homeless and downtrodden; children, who in many cases, would have to do without; medical and health support for so many who are out of other options; and so much more.

Our Spotlight on Philanthropy is designed to show you the inner workings of programs touching our community and, hopefully, encourage you to take a closer look.

Featured Charitable Organization:

ELF Final Logo full

What does Extraordinary Lives Foundation (ELF) do?

The mission of Extraordinary Lives Foundation (ELF) is to improve children’s mental health and wellness and support families by providing educational tools, resources and awareness events.

ELF encourages adults to recognize symptoms, overcome the stigma and reach out for help. Through prevention, early intervention and holistic treatment, ELF believes many of the big problems facing today’s youth can be transformed within a generation.

There are four primary ways that ELF helps improve the mental health of children and their families:

–Host mental health awareness events.

–Create therapeutic tools for children.

–Provide educational resources for parents, parents to be and teachers.

–Bridge the gap between traditional and holistic healing options.

Mental health affects everyone, at all ages in all walks of life. ELF’s multifaceted approach is particularly focused on children but is designed to also reach families and their communities.

How many people are serviced and who are they?

ELF donates hundreds of Piggie Bear tools to several different children’s nonprofit organizations that serve at-risk youth including Families Forward, CASA, Laura’s House, YMCA, Illumination Foundation, CHOC Children’s Hospital, Camp Pendleton and Strong Families, Strong Children.

ELF Miracles for Kids

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Courtesy of Extraordinary Lives Foundation

(L-R) Rachel Popplewell, Sapphira Ha Roberson and Mara James when ELF donated 300 “The Power of Piggie Bear” books to Miracles for Kids

What services are available?

Currently, ELF provides The Power of Piggie Bear book and a Piggie Bear stuffed animal to help support children’s emotional wellness. 

The HUGS for Life Healing Center is in the developmental stage and will bridge the gap between medical professionals and accredited holistic healers. The facility will be available to all wishing to seek holistic healing options to conquer their mental health challenges and ELF will raise funds to offer treatment options to low-income children and their families.

ELF Laura's House

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Courtesy of Extraordinary Lives Foundation

(L-R) Mara James and Crystal Wishart when ELF donated 25 “The Power of Piggie Bear” coloring books to Laura’s House

Why give to ELF?

Now more than ever, children’s mental health challenges are on the rise. Your donation will directly benefit vulnerable children in need and will help increase their emotional intelligence and mental well-being.

How can you give to the ELF? 

Donations are accepted via the nonprofit’s website at and checks can be mailed to ELF, 26800 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 460, Mission Viejo, CA 92691.

Can someone volunteer? If so, how? What opportunities are available? 

Yes! ELF is always looking for volunteers to assist in outreach, miscellaneous projects and to “high five” attendees at their Mental Health Awareness events.

ELF Piggie Bears in masks

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Courtesy of YMCA at Hidden Hills, Laguna Niguel

ELF donated 50 “The Power of Piggie Bear” books and plush toys to the YMCA. The author Mara James read the book and Kim Gubner sang the “Piggie Bear I am Amazing” song.

Please describe any internal clubs, partnerships, leagues, college programs, etc.

Early Childhood OC, UCI, CHOC Children’s, First 5, United Healthcare and CalOptima.

What are the major fundraisers and when are they?

ELF hosts annual comedy night fundraisers and mental health awareness events. This year the nonprofit is also considering hosting a mental health awareness concert. Dates are TBD as well as virtual or hybrid/in person.

Names of the leadership group

ELF Board Members

Mara James – Founder & CEO

Rachel Popplewell – Vice Chairman 

Martha Bowers – Secretary

Dan Zinn – Treasurer 

Amy Betonte – General Member

Dr. Kevin Alexandar DBH, LPCC – General Member

Damion Young – Attorney

Lauren Perry McVicker – General Member

Jennifer Annes – General Member

Albert Ramos – General Member

ELF Advisory Board Members\

Dr. Kenneth James, M.D. OB/GYN and collaborator

Dr. Adrienne Matros, Psy.D. & Mental Health Advocate

Dr. Brett Patterson, Ph.D. CEU/CME Webinar Presenter

Dr. Lina Ponder, Psy.D. PPS, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Jessica Borelli, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychological Science, UC Irvine

Sandy Avzaradel, Director, Early Childhood OC, ELF Advisory Board Member and moderator for webinars

Hoda Shawky, NP, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Susan Kenny, CASA Employee and ELF Advisory Board Member

Renata Ururahy, Dietician and Holistic Therapist

Amy Hamilton, Business Adviser

Sheryl Erani, Meeting Planner

Naresh Worlikar, Business Executive 

Randi Johnson, Marketing Consultant

Carrie Cesario, Transpersonal Hypnotherapist

Chris DiFonso, MBA, Finance Professional


26800 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 460

Mission Viejo, CA 92691


Every small step can make a BIG difference! 

Spotlight on Philanthropy is underwritten by

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