June 24, 2013 20:09 ET

LA's BEST Raises Nearly $1.2 Million From Black-Tie Gala and Creative Fund-Raising Campaign

After School Program Combines a Traditional Gala with Clever Innovations; A "Monkey Raffle," a Celebrity Housewarming and Auctioning Off a Prized Puppy

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--(Marketwired - June 24, 2013) - LA's BEST After School Enrichment program raised $1,170,000 and counting through various fund-raising events, culminating Saturday night with the "LA's BEST Honors," a black-tie gala at the Beverly Hilton, announced Carla Sanger, President & CEO of LA's BEST.

NBA star Chris Paul, CNN host Michaela Pereira, rock-n-roll band Grouplove, comedic auctioneer Jonathan Slocumb and the LA's BEST dance team at Panorama City Elementary provided the entertainment. The event celebrated the organization's 25th Anniversary and honored Lubov and Max Azria (BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP) for Distinguished Achievement. LA84 President Anita DeFrantz was honored for supporting the organization's Sports and Fitness programs. Warner Bros. Records Chairman and CEO Cameron Strang received the LA's BEST Honor for music, and Dr. Bill Dorfman ("Extreme Makeover") received the award for health. The trophy each received was an original sculpture designed by Eduardo Oropeza (1947-2003).

The event included perhaps the world's first Monkey Raffle. Here's how it worked: donors paid $100 for a Paul Frank monkey. Hundreds of the designer primates were hanging in silver trees, commemorating the silver anniversary. Each monkey entitled the donor to a raffle ticket -- or up to four tickets, if you were lucky enough to pick the right monkey. Donors placed the tickets in one of eleven boxes, each corresponding to a luxury item. If your ticket was drawn from the box, you won the item. Either way, you got to keep the monkey. The raffle raised an estimated $18,000, according to Auction Chair Christy Dimitriades and LA's BEST Vice President of Development, Robyn Ritter-Simon.

 "At one point, we seriously considered auctioning off a board member's horse," Sanger said. "The only reason we didn't do it was because of the liability. Instead, we auctioned a puppy." The German Shepherd puppy raised $3,000.

Meanwhile, the evening's host, Chris Paul, auctioned off his talent -- agreeing to teach basketball fundamentals in a private basketball clinic for one lucky winner and up to nine friends. During the live auction, he decided to grant clinics to both of the top bidders -- raising $27,000 for LA's BEST.

Other auction items varied from a week at a Tuscany villa to a night at the Hollywood Bowl in a coveted pool circle box. Donors could choose to be personally styled like a cover girl (or boy) by the Azrias.

Supporters also were able to bid on a personalized voice mail message by Doris Roberts ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), plus a signed copy of a "Raymond" script, as well as the winning bidder's choice of a cup of tea or glass of wine with the TV legend. Other items include: Cosmetic services from a prominent plastic surgeon. A Fender guitar signed by Tom Petty. A customized version of a Hot Wheel car with your kid's picture on the vehicle, as the centerpiece of an exclusive birthday-party.

About a month before the Monkey Raffle, the Silver Anniversary campaign took another clever turn -- a celebrity housewarming.

When Candy Spelling downsized from her legendary 57,000-square-foot home to a 17,000-square-foot apartment, it was an event. In fact, her relocation was the subject of a highly rated reality series on HGTV. She lived in her former mansion for 10 years before she hosted a party for anyone outside her most-intimate circle, so the opportunity to get a first glimpse at her brand-new penthouse apartment was highly coveted.

So what did Spelling do with this precious commodity? She gave it away. By selling tickets to the housewarming to a select crowd of elite real-estate professionals, highly curious high-net-worth individuals and supportive personal friends, Spelling raised more than $20,000 for LA's BEST After School Enrichment Program. They wandered the art-filled hallways, gazed into the two-story shoe closet, peered at the skyline from the "rose room" and peered down upon the entire 20th Century Fox movie studio from the living room. Million-dollar homes look like toys from this vantage point. The giddy crowd paid $500 apiece for the privilege. None appeared disappointed by the experience. And the charity seemed more than pleased itself.

Spelling sits on the board of LA's BEST and therefore has first-hand knowledge of the challenge that non-profits face as government funding declines, corporate giving tightens and individual charitable giving continues to be anemic.

"Non-profits have to find new ways to raise awareness and raise money to provide the services society tends to take for granted," says Sanger.

LA's BEST provides after school services to 28,000 children in 189 schools in the neighborhoods with the highest needs around Los Angeles. The program was conceived and founded by Mayor Tom Bradley in 1988 and has continued through every Mayoral administration since. Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti has supported LA's BEST for years as a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

Photo Caption:

(From left) LA's BEST President & CEO Carla Sanger, Mistress of Ceremonies Michaela Pereira, Jada Paul, Host Chris Paul, and Chair of the Board of Directors of LA's BEST Marvin Suomi celebrate and support after school enrichment at the LA's BEST 25th Anniversary Gala on June 22, 2013 at The Beverly Hilton.

LA's BEST -- Better Educated Students for Tomorrow -- is a nationally recognized after school education, enrichment and recreation program serving more than 28,000 children with the greatest needs and fewest resources throughout the City of Los Angeles. LA's BEST After School Enrichment Program provides a safe haven for children ages 5 to 12 at 189 elementary school sites each day during the critical hours after school -- at no cost to parents. Established in 1988, LA's BEST is a partnership including the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the private sector. LA's BEST is part of Beyond the Bell, whose mission is to ensure that all children and youth in LAUSD have access to high quality, safe and supervised academic, enrichment, and recreation programs that inspire learning and achievement beyond the regular school day. For more information, please visit

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