A few years ago, performer Rita Rudner declined an invitation to golf in a Pebble Beach charity event. She called the opportunity “too scary.”
“I don’t think they have an amateur status that’s low enough for me,” she laughs, speaking by phone from Southern California.
This year is shaping up to be a busy one for Rudner, who continues to sell out her popular comedy show at The Venetian in Las Vegas. “Thanks,” a film she produced with husband Martin Bergman, premieres on Showtime in March. In April and May, she’ll co-star in “Tickled Pink” at the Laguna Playhouse. And between it all, Rudner will headline the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County’s Comics for Kids event on March 31.
It’s her first time taking the stage at the annual fundraiser, but not her first time on the Monterey Peninsula.
“My husband and I have traveled there a few times and we absolutely love it,” she says. “It’s just the most beautiful place—it’s storybook pretty.” Even pretty places have residents in need. In Monterey County, the Boys & Girls Club serves more than 4,000 students ages 6 to 18 each year with a mix of after-school activities, meal programs, family events and other initiatives.
“It’s not just about serving our children. We’re serving families,” says Donna Ferraro, the organization’s CEO and president. “Most people think the Boys & Girls Clubs are where kids play pool or play basketball. In reality, we have three core initiatives: academic success, healthy lifestyles, and good character and citizenship.”
Participating students learn to build stronger relationships, make healthy choices and become contributing community members. They are encouraged to explore new hobbies, set high goals and achieve in school. This year, the local organization is focused on boosting literacy rates, particularly for children in the first and second grades.
“We know that if a child doesn’t learn to read by the time they’re in third grade, they will have difficulty,” Ferraro says. To make a difference for all those children, Boys & Girls Clubs leaders partner with school administrators, teachers and family members. The nonprofit also relies on more than 600 volunteers, and on the donations of local supporters such as Coastal Luxury Management, who provides the Comics for Kids venue.
“This event brings the community together,” says Ferraro. “Our supporters are mission-driven people. They’re here because of the kids. The entertainment is great and the auction is great, but it’s all because of the kids.” Last year’s fundraising event drew nearly 650 guests and netted approximately $350,000. The 2012 version promises to be no less spectacular. KION/KCBA anchors Jasmine Viel and Marc Cota-Robles will cohost the evening’s festivities, sharing the spotlight with live auctioneer Wil Shriner, who directed “Frasier,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and other shows. Live and silent auction items will include dinner at The French Laundry, San Francisco Giants luxury box seats, use of vacation homes in Cape Cod and Cabo San Lucas, dinner and a cooking class with chef Wendy Brodie and more.
In addition, guests will enjoy cocktails, dinner and dessert, along with performances by some of the children and teens benefitting from Boys & Girls Clubs programs. Several will perform song and dance routines, and youth of the year honorees will discuss how the organization has changed their lives. Program leaders hope those changes are long-lasting.
“It’s really cradle to career,” says Ferraro. “How can we really enhance and help support them…We want them not only to graduate from high school, but also from college or trade school, and then have a liveable wage.” Rudner’s Comics for Kids performance will help the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County reach those goals. And, according to Ferraro, Rudner is the first major female comedian to headline the event in its 19 years. “She really is funny. She’s very caring and I think she understands what the Boys & Girls Club is all about,” Ferraro says. “I really believe the show is going to be a little different this year.”
At press time, Rudner hadn’t yet planned her act for the evening, but she was sure of three things.
“I know I’ll be there, I know I’ll have a pretty dress, and I know I’ll be funny,” she says.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County’s Comics for Kids event takes place on March 31, 2012, at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Grand Tasting Tent at Portola Road and Stevenson Drive. Doors open at 5:30pm. Tickets cost $300/person ($165 is tax deductible); groups of 10 can reserve tables for $5,000 ($3,750 is tax deductible). For reservations and information, visitwww.bgcmc.org or call 831/394-5171.