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Playing Monopoly for charity

Proceeds benefit SCV School and Business Alliance

Posted: May 16, 2008 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 16, 2008 5:03 a.m.
As the late afternoon sun slowly reeled in its rays, letting a cool spring evening take over at the Paseo Club last Saturday, the sounds of tennis volleys gave way to music and amplified voices coming from two
big tents set up at the Grand Stadium Court. One of those voices was instantly familiar.

It was that of the SCV's own Chris Schauble, co-anchor of NBC4's "Today in L.A." show. At times someone out on the courts might have thought Schauble was giving a very biased news report, as he gleefully shouted someone or other was "going to jail!"

But it was all in fun, of course. Schauble was the master of ceremonies and co-auctioneer of the SCV School & Business Alliance's fourth annual Monopoly Mania fundraising event. And those who went to "jail" hardly had time to pose for a photo before being bailed out.

Proceeds from Monopoly Mania are used to help implement school-to-career programs for SCV students, and, as usual, this year's event included a silent auction, live auction, dinner, dessert - and two 45-minute rounds of good-natured-but-cutthroat Monopoly competition.

There was fun in the evening and fun in planning it. As Jacquie Malcolm of Diamonds & Cream Event Management, who helped organize the event, said, "It's really fun to be part of this. People get excited."

She noted that it was also fun to work with the event's planning committee, which included Sharon Kramer, Jenny Ketchepaw, Betty Peters and Adriana Estrada, the new executive director of the Alliance.

Estrada felt the location was a real plus, as well. "I think having this event at the Paseo Club raises the bar, and we hope to continue our partnership with them." But she emphasized that it was all fun for a
good cause. "All the funds raised at Monopoly Mania are earmarked for our school programs. We are a very strong resource for the community - the link that will create work force opportunities for SCV students."

Paul Priesz, the current chairman of the Alliance's Board of Directors, was also on hand and he emphasized the importance of raising funds to continue the organization's good works. "It's very important. It connects students with careers in the future. We want them to explore careers, to find one that fits their interests and skills."

Schauble, who was emceeing the event for the second year in a row, explained that he is very involved with adoptions, but finds time for Monopoly Mania because the Alliance's work is so valuable. "I'll keep coming back," he said.

Rounding out the principals in the evening's action were Julie Weith, who served as co-auctioneer with Schauble, and a number of dedicated volunteers. Washington Mutual employees served as bankers at game tables, and two of those tables seated "player-coaches" who were there to help, but also to win. Ken Koury was one. He is the coach of the U.S. Monopoly team and, heading into the next U.S. championship, is ranked No. 1 in the country. Dr. Gary Heller has the other "ringer," having won two North Dakota and one Minnesota state championships.

At any time during the evening, guests could make their bids on a selection of fine silent auction items, which included vacations, gift baskets, sports and movie memorabilia, and jewelry. There were raffle
prizes as well.

The evening's music was provided by Silver Tunes Entertainment, and the sponsors were displayed on Monopoly "property" banners hung around the room. The signature sponsors were Andy Gump, Inc., with Boardwalk, and the SCV Facilities Foundation, with Park Place.

The evening's activities began with the Canyon High School Madrigals, directed by Mary Purdy, singing the national anthem. Then it was time for dinner, but even before the tables were excused to visit the food
tent, Sergio D'Agustini was sent to jail by Betty Peters (all it took was a five-dollar donation). Peters, who was one of the founders of the Alliance, said she did it because he was probably the "last person in
the world who would ever be found in a jail." Besides, she just enjoys stirring things up.

As usual, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lt. Mike Dunkel served as jailor, wearing his period wool New York police coat and carrying his grandfather's billy club to urge the felons along.

Among the guests were Bruce Fortine and Gloria Mercado-Fortine. She said he had medalled at last year's Monopoly Mania and that she had been practicing. He said he'd been playing Monopoly for 30 years but, "I
wouldn't take my skills to Vegas."

In no time, dinner was under the belt, and Schauble asked Heller to get the competition started with the typical Monopoly shout of "We're gonna roll the dice!" The volume in the tent kicked up several decibels as the players leaned into their work.

Schauble began to work the room, pumping up the action and "encouraging" folks to send their competitors to jail and put them off their game. He was impressive in his outpouring of energy and good-humored dedication to the cause, never letting things die down and offering timely updates on the games' status. In fact, if that tent had come with oars, he probably could have rowed it to Acton single-handedly.

The Monopoly action was fierce and fun and 45 minutes flew by. When Schauble finally called a halt to round one, everyone needed their dessert-fix to recharge. Upon their return, the live auction offered up
select items such as a Holland-America cruise, which went for $4,000; a cruise on Mike Lebecki's yacht "Echo," which went for $1,200; a martial arts party (two sold for $200); and a portrait package, which went for $600.

Then it was on to round two and more cutthroat action ensued. Even Ken Koury was hauled off to jail (at Schauble's suggestion) so his competitors could catch their breath. But he was bailed out before the door even closed.

Though the games could have lasted quite a bit longer, the end to round two was soon announced, and the 15 table winners (including Koury and Heller, of course) all received crystal cube-trophies and entry into the Grand Prize Drawing. When the winner was drawn, Heller won a three-day, two-night hotel stay in any of 26 great U.S. destinations, plus a four-pack of Dodger tickets.

But everyone else also went home with a smile - and it was all to promote the Alliance's programs.


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