The Coast News Group
Carols by Candlelight is hosting its 28th annual Christmas concert Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido with proceeds benefiting the Rady’s Children’s Hospital Foundation. Courtesy photo

Stars come out for Rady benefit shows

ESCONDIDO — Steve Vaus knows the feeling of losing a sibling.

Vaus lost his sister when he was a child and the feeling has never left his side. It’s why in 1990 he, along with Wayne Nelson, started Carols by Candlelight and will donate proceeds of their 28th annual Christmas concert to the Rady’s Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The concert is Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido and tickets are still available. The shows begin at 8 p.m. each night.

“The approach to it has always been the same,” Vaus, the mayor of Poway, said. “We get music stars to come sing their big hits and their favorite Christmas songs.”

This year’s show features Lonestar, with 10 No. 1 hits and 10 million albums sold to their credit, plus four-time Grammy nominee Brandy Clark, as well as Charlie Worsham, Anna Vaus and Steve Vaus himself, a Grammy winner in 2010.

Following the on-stage performances, the evening closes with the audience and stars meeting in the courtyard and singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. In addition to the live entertainment, the benefit also features a live auction offering guitars autographed by James Taylor and Brad Paisley, as well as silent auctions and raffle prizes, donated by sponsoring organizations.

For Vaus, though, it all circles back to his sister, who was born with birth defects.

“Her only Christmas on Earth was spent in a children’s hospital,” he recalled. “That profoundly affected me because it was such a loving environment. They brought the Christmas spirit to little kids regardless of what condition they were in. I wanted to pay it back.”

The concert, meanwhile, began with humble roots as a free event in Horton Plaza in San Diego. Its popularity spiked and soon the event needed more space and has been held at California Center for the Arts, Escondido for more than 20 years.

Over the years, Carols by Candlelight has featured music stars Kenny Loggins, Phil Vassar, LeAnn Rimes, Billy Ray Cyrus, America, BJ Thomas, Bucky Covington, Collin Raye, Sara Evans, Little River Band and the Commodores.

As for Rady’s, Carol Damon-Scherer, vice president of philanthropy, said the foundation is thrilled to be part of the festivities. She said the hospital is the only major resource for children and their illnesses in the county and every dollar to support Rady’s makes a difference.

“We usually say a few words after intermission to just let the community know to celebrate and contribute to Rady’s Children’s Hospital,” Damon-Scherer said.

The hospital has 40 satellites in three counties and treated more than 260,000 children last year, she added. The hospital services everything from emergency services, surgery, therapy and research, to name a few, covering all aspects of children’s care.

“We are the main provider of pediatric care in San Diego County,” Damon-Scherer said. “This is certainly a time of year when people are thinking of giving back. We certainly appreciate the community support.”

To purchase tickets, visit