Press Releases

Don Diego’s Gala-Licious Dinner & Concert was a Sweet Success!

June 4, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Billed as “A Night of Sweet Treats Under the Stars,” Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s June 7, 2018 Dinner and Concert Gala at the “How Sweet It Is” 2018 San Diego County Fair did not disappoint. From the minute Gala-goers entered the whimsical Fair entrance, then walked into the candy land-decorated Infield Pavilion devoted exclusively to them, met and mingled with scholarship recipients, enjoyed gourmet small plates, and ended the night with VIP Grandstand seating at the Kansas concert, they were treated to an evening beyond compare.

Executive Director Chana Mannen relates, “The genuine stars of the night were our amazing 2018 Scholars, who together share $72,500 in college scholarships. Also in starring roles were Gala sponsors, guests and auction donors whose support enables these 30 ambitious students from throughout the San Diego area to matriculate at highly regarded colleges around the country in pursuit of their career goals.”

Displaying a maturity reflecting their selection in a highly competitive year, students made it a point to find and thank individual Board members for their generosity.

In a brief program, Vice Chairman and Gala emcee Karen Tanz introduced the students, each of whom shared their college and major with the crowd. Spontaneous applause rose up as the students recited their ambitions to become veterinarians, biochemists, agriculture educators and other professionals in diverse fields.

Board member and exuberant auctioneer Frederick Schenk ramped up the bidding for iconic items and opportunities such as a Blue Ribbon Lamb and a Del Mar Thoroughbred Club horseracing Turf Club membership for two.

The substantial amount of money raised at the Gala will help fund scholarships for future leaders of our community, Mannen says. “Our […]

Don Diego’s Top Scholar, Angelina Manasan, is “Positively” the Best

June 4, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Omaha-based Creighton University, the prestigious destination for Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s top 2018 recipient, Angelina (Gigi) Manasan of San Diego, says it offers a highly ranked education “where students learn to become leaders through service to others.” That makes it the ideal school for Angelina, who has epitomized leading through service – and adversity – throughout her young life.

Faced with multiple, daunting, health conditions starting as an infant, Gigi has turned obstacles into opportunities to help others – especially medically challenged children – and she’s done it with a huge smile on her face, a lei around her neck and positivity in her heart. She established her scholarship eligibility by performing hula with Na Pua Ilima O’Kehaulani at the San Diego County Fair for more than ten years. She was unanimously chosen to receive the top $5,000 Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship plus the coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship through her interview with the Don Diego selection committee.

Chairman Roxana Foxx says that the committee members were impressed and moved by Gigi’s personal story, her accomplishments, her selfless desire to give back and her incredible resilience. She notes, “Gigi’s eclectic array of academic, extracurricular, work and volunteer achievements makes one ponder how this remarkable young woman can fit so many activities into her life and do everything so well while battling serious chronic conditions. She is simply awe-inspiring.”

Gigi is as humble as she is extraordinary. As a stellar Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) student who incorporates dancing, singing and theatre into her STEM + Arts = STEAM repertoire, Gigi was involved with Girls Who Code, Robotics and other high-tech efforts at Academy of Our Lady of Peace, where she earned a 4.2 GPA […]

Bid On Fair Collectibles and Help Send Students to College – Don Diego’s Online Autograph Auction Runs Through July 4, 2018

June 1, 2018

Del Mar, CA… It’s time to get your bid on! Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s Online Auction of autographed guitars and other signed collectibles has opened at Bidding closes at midnight on July 4, 2018.

Among the iconic items offered are guitars autographed by the 2016 San Diego County Fair Grandstand performers and by popular groups and individuals. Each item offers a buy-it-now option.

Auction proceeds benefit the Foundation’s educational programs, so when you win the bid of a guitar signed by a legendary musician, your donation is music to the ears of future leaders of our community. In 2018, 30 outstanding students throughout the San Diego area are sharing $72,500 in college scholarships to pursue their career goals.

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $862,000 in scholarships to 204 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at and

$72,500 in Don Diego Scholarships Will Propel 30 Exceptional San Diego Area Students to Notable Colleges Around the U.S.

May 23, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is elated to announce that it has awarded a record $72,500 in college scholarships to 30 exceptional students who reside throughout the San Diego area and have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The students are dazzling in their diversity of talents and united by their desire to make the world a better place. They will be feted at Don Diego’s Dinner and Kansas Concert Gala at the Fair on June 7, 2018 (tickets are still available) before heading to prestigious UC and Cal State campuses; highly regarded universities in Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Hawaii and elsewhere; and even legendary Notre Dame.

Executive Director Chana Mannen, who has overseen the scholarship process since the Foundation’s inception in 1986, reports, “This year’s crop is amazing. We received the most applications ever. Our selection committee had the challenging task of evaluating qualifications and interviewing finalists; all outstanding and deserving. The cream of the crop rose to the top and we are proud to present our Class of 2018.”

Scholarships at multiple levels were awarded in the categories of 4-H, FFA, Employee, Exhibitor/Participant, Vocational Education and Junior Livestock Auction participant.

The coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship was bestowed upon the most outstanding recipient: Angelina (“Gigi”) Manasan, who also received the top $5,000 Exhibitor/Participant scholarship. Gigi, who lives in San Diego and graduates from the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, will use her $10,000 award to attend Creighton University in Nebraska, where she will major in Mathematics.

Don Diego Chairman Roxana Foxx notes, “Gigi’s eclectic array of academic, extracurricular, work and volunteer achievements makes one ponder […]

Sweet Treats Await Don Diego Gala-goers June 7th At The Fair

April 16, 2018

Del Mar, CA… The Del Mar Fairgrounds’ Infield Pavilion will be transformed into a candy land of delight for one magical evening on June 7, 2018 for the exclusive Don Diego Gala at the “How Sweet It Is!” San Diego County Fair.

Individual tickets at are $275, with a $25-per-ticket discount if purchased by May 21, 2018. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

A colorful cornucopia of sweet treats awaits guests, beginning with all day preferred parking, hosted cocktails starting at 4:30 pm, and a mouth-watering gourmet dinner of grazing and grilling small plate selections plus champagne and delectable desserts.
Guests will mingle with a Who’s Who of San Diego society and meet the Class of 2018 Don Diego college scholarship recipients. The students will be presented in a brief program before the Gala culminates in VIP stagefront seating in the Corona Grandstand for the performance of the iconic classic rock band, Kansas.

A live auction will feature a case of Gold Medal wines, Blue Ribbon lamb, Grandstand stars-autographed guitars, other unique items and once-in-a-lifetime surprise opportunities. Elite sweet swag will make the evening memorable and complete.

Executive Director Chana Mannen states, “The annual Don Diego Gala celebrates our scholars and recognizes generous donors who enable these idealistic students to pursue their college and career goals. The 2018 Gala is already in hot demand, so we encourage people to buy tickets now before the event sells out.”

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $862,000 in scholarships to 204 students and […]

Plant*Grow*Eat Bus Program Offers Kids an Edible Education

March 12, 2018

Dear Friend,

What is bigger – a fat, red radish lovingly tended from a tiny seedling that is now as large as a tomato – or the bright eyes of the young gardener accepting a ribbon for growing this delicious masterpiece of nature?

Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s (DDSF) partnership with the San Diego County Fair’s Plant*Grow*Eat agriculture education program transports Title One elementary school students to an enriching day at the Fair showcasing their lovingly-grown edibles, petting farm animals, and planting the seeds for a life-long love of agriculture and healthy nutrition.

On designated days during the Fair, classrooms of students come laden with radishes, nasturtiums and other edibles that they have grown to be judged. Not every child’s entry will capture first place, but they all receive a participation ribbon, eat their veggies, and then have the opportunity to explore the agriculture areas as they enjoy a glimpse of the ocean; for some, their first time.

Last year, the DDSF sponsored 65 buses that enabled over 3,400 students, teachers and chaperones from low-income Title I schools that do not have the funds to provide field trips for their students due to fiscal restraints and lack of parent associations to participate in Plant*Grow*Eat. Our goal this year is to expand the program and be able to provide 100 buses to the local Title One schools.

We need your help in raising money to keep these students coming. You can sponsor an entire bus for $350 or a partial bus in any amount you can give. Or, maybe you are part of a group (e.g., book club, or bridge or walking group, etc.) that you want chip in together to sponsor […]

Roxana Foxx Elected Chairman, Don Diego Scholarship Foundation

March 20, 2018, 2018

Del Mar, CA … Roxana Foxx of Rancho Santa Fe has been unanimously elected to serve as Chairman of the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation. A longtime Board member, Foxx was elected at the March 12, 2018 Board meeting. Also elected to the Executive Board were Karen Tanz, Vice Chairman; Tim Fennell, President; Juanita Hayes, Secretary; and George Karetas, Treasurer. In addition to these seasoned members, the Foundation welcomes new Board members Sandra DiCicco, Glenn Drown and John Hoeflich.

The Board represents a wide array of agricultural, business and philanthropy-minded professionals who together offer a breadth of expertise that will continue to propel the Foundation forward as a preeminent San Diego institution that provides college scholarships to outstanding San Diego area students and grants that enable elementary students to learn about agriculture and nutrition from the ground up.

Roxana Foxx states, “As a competitive equestrian on the horse show circuit and a San Diego business entrepreneur, I have a strong connection to agrarian pursuits and a commitment to rewarding the immense work ethic demonstrated by our annual college scholarship recipients. Many become leaders in the agricultural community. All are helping to build a better San Diego, a better America and a better world.”

Foxx is the founder and CEO of Hunter International, a highly regarded San Diego-based firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions of law firms and lateral partner recruiting and placement. She has amassed a three-decade track record of civic, social and political contributions to California and the nation. Among her plethora of activities, Foxx served as President of the Rancho Santa Fe Association, Board member of the San Diego County Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Trustee of the Performing Arts League. In addition […]

Don Diego Featured on KOCT’s “Oceanside Spectrum” – Fallbrook’s Taryn Sehnert Shares Her Success Story

February 5, 2018

Del Mar, CA … Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is featured on KOCT’s “Oceanside Spectrum” airing February 5-23, 2018 on TV and on-demand at The program showcases the Foundation’s connection with the San Diego County Fair and its 2018 program offering a record $73,000 in college scholarships to 35 outstanding students who reside in the San Diego area and have participated in the Fair or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

In the show, KOCT host Elaine Swann welcomes Foundation Executive Director Chana Mannen and 2016 scholarship recipient Taryn Sehnert. Mannen highlights the application process, available at

Taryn Sehnert, a 2016 Miss Fallbrook and longtime FFA leader, enthusiastically shares her love for the Fair and the many animals she has raised, leading to her desire to pursue an agriculture-related career. Having earned the National FFA American Degree, the highest honor bestowed by the organization, Taryn will transfer this fall from Mira Costa to her “dream school,” the University of Nebraska. She says she is grateful to Don Diego Scholarship Foundation for helping to propel her education.

Mannen states, “Taryn represents the kind of exemplary student Don Diego is pleased to support. We are very appreciative of Elaine Swann and KOCT for helping us spread the word about the Foundation and our ambitious, idealistic recipients.”

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984.
To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $862,000 in scholarships to 204 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at and

Don Diego Offers Whopping $73,000 in College Scholarships to 35 Outstanding Students in San Diego Area

January 22, 2018

Del Mar, CA … Don Diego Scholarship Foundation will award a record $73,000 in college scholarships to 35 outstanding students who reside in the San Diego area and have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Scholarships are offered in six categories. Individual awards range from $1,000 to $5,000. The deadline to apply is March 19, 2018. Eligibility details and applications are at For questions, contact

Finalist interviews will be held in May. Recipients will be honored at the exclusive Don Diego Gala during the 2018 San Diego County Fair. Each recipient also will receive a personalized Legacy Brick installed at the Fairgrounds.


  • Scholarships of $5,000, $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 will be awarded in each of four categories: 4-H, FFA, Employee and Exhibitor/Participant.
  • Four $2,500 and 13 $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to 4-H and FFA students who participate in the 2018 Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.
  • Two 2,500 Vocational Education scholarships will be awarded to students who wish to pursue an AA/AS degree or certificate at a community college or accredited trade school.
  • The coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship will be bestowed upon the most outstanding 2018 recipient.

Don Diego Chair Jon Liss says that he and fellow Board members eagerly await dozens of applications from exceptional students throughout the region. Liss reports, “Our scholarship program has skyrocketed over the past few years! Prior to 2014, we awarded four $5,000 scholarships. Since then, we have steadily increased the number, categories, levels and total monetary amount of annual awards, enabling more future leaders to pursue their college and career goals. We have been able to […]

Legacy of Love Begins on Track

November 20, 2017

Del Mar, CA … The odds-on favorite at the Del Mar Racetrack on November 18, 2017 was not a horse, but a young San Marcos couple deeply in love. On this warm and sunny, picture-perfect morning, romance was in the air … and at the Don Diego Legacy Brick Fountain at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Michael Pettinato, 26, orchestrated his marriage proposal to perfection. First he purchased and customized a brick with a heart inscribed: “Katie Brown, 2017: Will You Marry Me? –Michael Pettinato.” Then he invited their families to “hide” above the Fountain where, promptly at 11:30 am, he entered the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Stretch Run Gate with Katie, fibbing that he wanted to show her a Don Diego Legacy Brick his mother had bought for installation at the Fountain. Michael led Katie to the spot, unveiled the brick, got down on one knee, popped open up a jewelry box to reveal a gorgeous engagement ring, and popped the question: “Katie: will you marry me?”

Astonished to tears, Katie Brown, 25, screamed, “YES!” As they embraced and kissed, their families cheered. Even race fans walking by who typically would be buried in betting odds applauded and extended their good wishes to the ecstatic couple. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club graciously hosted the entire Pettinato and Brown families for an afternoon they will not soon forget.

Once Katie caught her breath, the bride-to-be confided, “I’ve been hoping Michael would ask me to marry him. This very morning, I had a weird feeling and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if he proposed at the track?’ But I had no idea he actually would!”

Michael said that a couple years […]