Playhouses Provide Charitable Platform

HomeAid’s annual event brings together the combined efforts of an industry to benefit those in need.

By Carina Calhoun
Photography by Garland West of In-Reflection Studio

For more than two decades, HomeAid’s annual event, Project Playhouse, has continued to bring together some of the nation’s leading home builders for a better cause. Project Playhouse calls for the workmanship and creative skills of the participating builders to design and construct fantasy playhouses that assert both luxury and imagination. These masterpieces are then auctioned off with the proceeds donated to HomeAid, benefitting their mission to shelter homeless men, women and children.

This year, four playhouses were crafted for the event, boasting themes that range from a colorful, contemporary beach house to a repurposed English cottage. John Racunas, senior vice president of Lockton Insurance Brokers as well as the Project Playhouse event chairman with also over 12 years’ experience as a volunteer committee member and subcommittee chair of the VIP Party event, explained the new addition to this year’s event — and that is HomeAid’s partnership with the Festival of Children at South Coast Plaza. “HomeAid’s Project Playhouse is very proud to be part of the Festival and appreciate how they welcomed our event with open arms,” Racunas explained.

Also participating in this year’s event is William Lyon Homes and Shea Homes — two of the longest running Project Playhouse participants and the builders, according to Racunas, who continue to bring their “A-game” to Project Playhouse every year. “Both builders have designed and constructed spectacular playhouses that capture the child and imagination in all of us,” Racunas said. William Lyon Homes’ contributions have been spanning 21 years since the event’s inception, trying to outdo their previous efforts each year. The same passion that William Lyon Homes puts into their own communities translates into the playhouses they build for this charitable cause. “We want to be involved in this event as we feel it is important to be involved in the communities we build. As a builder, we are opening doorways to so many new homebuyers that we want to also help provide the doorways of hope for those less fortunate,” Tara Morenc, director of purchasing — Southern California region, William Lyon Homes, Inc., said. She continued, “This event allows us to showcase our expertise and craftsmanship in a fun, unique way that also provides a substantial benefit to a charity and cause that crosses so many organizations.” Morenc’s involvement consisted not only of the designing and building processes, but she became a member of the committee that develops and orchestrates the events for Project Playhouse as well. “The time and materials are 100 percent donated and it becomes a true labor of love,” Morenc stated.

As one of Project Playhouse’s frontrunners, Shea Homes applies the company’s core values to never compromising their morals and ethics, and always, “…Do the right thing,” said Rod Plunkett, superintendent, Shea Homes. Plunkett continued, “Being a part of HomeAid and giving back to the communities is something the Shea family believes in.” With the less fortunate in mind and drive to assist HomeAid in their charitable efforts, Shea Homes’ main goal is to raise revenue every year for this cause by putting forth the same energies into their playhouse as they do the luxury communities in which they construct. By combining the inspiration from their own Tuscan-style, luxury community in Newport Beach called Costa Azul, and the classic movie, “A Christmas Story,” Shea Homes received permission from Warner Bros. to replicate a scaleddown version of the movie’s home, complete with a leg lamp, Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and a pink bunny suit. “We wanted a playhouse that would fit and compliment a home in an affluent neighborhood,” Plunkett stated.

Although these playhouses might be interpreted as a direct reflection of the creator’s style and abilities, it should not be forgotten that the true foundation of this event lies much deeper than what is at the surface. “The more people we can get involved in HomeAid, the more financial resources we will have to help the homeless in our community,” Racunas explained. HomeAid’s Project Playhouse continues to provide a platform for the builder community to come together for a greater cause and reach out to a broader spectrum of individuals that can truly benefit from the combined efforts of an entire industry. “HomeAid is a charity for charities that provides the shelters for a multitude of causes and organizations. We are proud to be able to assist them in their pursuit to assist those needing a doorway to walk through and call home,” said Morenc.

Carina Calhoun is editor at Builder and Developer. She may be contacted at

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