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People in Your Neighborhood: La Jollans Sandra Alavi and Selma Daniels lead Miracle Babies gala

La Jollans Sandra Alavi and Selma Daniels are co-chairwomen of this year's Miracle Babies gala to support families in need.
La Jollans Sandra Alavi (left) and Selma Daniels are co-chairwomen of this year’s Miracle Babies gala to support families in need.
(Courtesy of Sandra Alavi and Selma Daniels)

Ahead of the Miracle Babies gala on Saturday, Oct. 23, two La Jolla residents are working to ensure the nonprofit continues to support mothers and their babies.

Sandra Alavi and Selma Daniels, co-chairwomen of Miracle Babies’ 12th annual “La Fête Magnifique” at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, have planned an evening including dinner, auctions, entertainment and comments from Miracle Babies founder Dr. Sean Daneshmand.

“It’s a great celebration,” Alavi said. “Very festive.”

Alavi recalled entering a hospital for a four-week stay when she was six months pregnant with her twins, Austin and Jamie, now 10.

“I ended up having them after seven months [of pregnancy],” she said. “They were so tiny. They were in the NICU [newborn intensive care unit] for five weeks.”

Though she and her husband were able to “take care of everything ourselves, I was able to see how hard it was for other parents,” Alavi said.

She said Miracle Babies’ support for families, such as donations of clothes and milk, transportation between home and hospital and providing volunteers to sit with and rock hospitalized babies when their parents leave to care for other children, is “a great thing.”

Alavi, who also has an adult daughter and owns several local businesses with her husband, said she became aware of Miracle Babies by attending the organization’s galas the past several years.

She said she was inspired by its efforts to help families who are in the same position she was once in. “I’ve been there. … Even if I could help a little, I wanted to help. And now that I’m more involved, I want to try to do more,” she said.

Daniels, who learned of Miracle Babies through her friendship with its co-founder Marjan Daneshmand, became more involved with the organization after having her daughter, Aliyah, now 2.

“I knew the importance of it, but it really just didn’t hit so close to home until I had my own child,” Daniels said. “I thought about the suffering of women [even though] I had a perfectly healthy baby and perfectly good labor and delivery.”

Daniels, a real estate developer who also owns restaurants and other businesses with her husband, said “it’s really so hard having a child, and ... [to] have a sick baby, and a baby that you can’t be with day in and day out … is devastating.”

“You’ve got to keep their hopes up,” she added. “You’ve got to help them out in any way you can, try to make it as easy as possible on them in other situations so that all they have to do is focus on their child and healing their child.”

“I’ve been there. … Even if I could help a little, I wanted to help. And now that I’m more involved, I want to try to do more.”

Sandra Alavi

Both Alavi and Daniels have been drawn to philanthropic endeavors. Alavi has been involved in fundraising for Gillispie and Francis Parker schools as well as supporting The Salvation Army. Daniels has been a longtime supporter of Promises2Kids and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Alavi said “the biggest gift [is] giving. If I can do it, I want to.”

Daniels said she “always had such a sweet spot for children. ... They’re the most innocent little things on this planet. And it’s not just them, it’s the families that have to go through so much, too.”

As a child who immigrated to the United States with her family from Iraq, she learned how important a support system is to a family, she said. “My family struggled a lot, and our community helped us. [This] is me giving back.”

Daniels said she hopes Miracle Babies will continue to grow to serve more families. “I would encourage people to try and donate their time [and] donate financially.”

Alavi said “awareness is the most important thing, for people to know what we’re doing.”

To buy tickets for the gala or learn more about Miracle Babies, visit miraclebabies.org.

People in Your Neighborhood shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.