Chanelkeeper’s Blue Water Ball Brings Community Together to Support Clean Water

Ted Morton and Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, discuss the environment and the transformative power of local, grassroots efforts during the evening’s Channelside Chat. (Courtesy)

On Saturday, March 16, more than 200 community members gathered for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper’s Blue Water Ball, a celebration of the organization’s work to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds.

This year’s event—which opened with a heartfelt welcome and song by Mia Lopez, a member of the Coastal Band of Chumash Nation—featured a Channelside Chat with Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, hosted by Channelkeeper’s executive director, Ted Morton. Gellert spoke about the transformative power of local, grassroots efforts to protect the environment during the discussion, as well as his experience with the initiative to protect Albania’s Vjosa River and Patagonia’s ongoing advocacy on behalf of the Ventura River.

“For more than two decades, Patagonia and Channelkeeper have worked together for healthy creeks, rivers, estuaries, and oceans,” said Ted Morton. “We are grateful for Patagonia’s environmental leadership within our local and global communities and for its steadfast support of Channelkeeper’s work to protect waterways and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders.”

During the cocktail hours, guests viewed water-inspired artwork donated for the silent auction by fourteen local artists. They also enjoyed local libations and jazz music from Dave Vignoe Trio and keyboardist Mel McGary.

Emcee Andrew Firestone guided the evening and inspired attendees to bid on the curated selection of auction items. Along with the art works, the auction included works by local artists Morgan Maassen, Michael Irwin, Mary Heebner, and others; local dining experiences, ocean-adventures, and nature-based travel opportunities to Alaska and Chile; as well as gear from Channel Islands Surfboards, Fletcher Chouinard Designs, and Patagonia.

As Catering Connection served an elegant three-course meal, Ted Morton spoke about the organization’s environmental education programs, advocacy campaigns, and volunteer efforts to help keep coastal watersheds and habitats healthy. Morton also shared a short video highlighting Channelkeeper’s conservation work.

In addition to its success as a community-building event, the Blue Water Ball raised $170,000 to support Channelkeeper’s on-going and future programs, including monitoring creeks and coastal waters, organizing volunteers for community cleanups, providing educational experiences for local students about water quality and habitats, and advocating for strong policies to ensure clean water and healthy habitats.

The organization is grateful for the community’s ongoing support and would like to extend special thanks to event sponsors Patagonia, Montecito Bank & Trust, MarBorg Industries, and NatureTrack Film Festival, and the many individual sponsors, underwriters, and honorary committee members, artists, auction donors, and guests, who made the evening so special.

“This year’s Blue Water Ball was a wonderful celebration,” said executive director Ted Morton. “We are grateful for this community of supporters who believe in Channelkeeper and make it possible for our work to have such a positive impact in our communities.”

Executive Director Ted Morton and guests Anja Laicher and Stephen Gordon take in the ocean views during the cocktail reception. (Courtesy)
Guests Sandy Urquhart and Mercedes Millington celebrate Channelkeeper’s clean water work. (Courtesy)
Presenter Ryan Gellert and wife Xiaomin toast to clean water and healthy habitats. (Courtesy)
Channelkeeper board member Ben Goedert and Lane Bhutani enjoy views of the Santa Barbara Channel.
Sandy_Urquhart and Mercedes Millington.jpg: Guest (Courtesy)

Esteemed member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation Mia Lopez welcomed guests with a prayer and song mindful of shared place and depth of time. (Courtesy)


Written by sbck

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds. Learn more at

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