Overland Park & Leawood

March 25, 2014

Kids Night Out features Hollywood royalty and so much more

Dinner. Drinks. Al Pacino.

Dinner. Drinks. Al Pacino.

A little taste of Hollywood glamour is coming to Kansas City this week. And all for a good cause — to raise money to help disadvantaged youth.

Kids Night Out, the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, is being held at the Overland Park Convention Center on Friday evening.

Attendees — shelling out $500 for an individual ticket up to $25,000 for a special package with 20 tickets to attend the affair — will be treated to dinner, live and silent auctions and a musical performance by Blue Springs High School senior Malena Marcase.

The 18-year-old will sing “Children Will Listen,” from the Broadway musical “Into the Woods” as a few teenagers from the Kansas City area provide heartfelt testimony on how the organization has benefited them over the years.

“It’s so cool because I know this event is really important for Kansas City,” Marcase said. “It will be interesting to hear firsthand what these kids are going through and how Boys & Girls has helped them.”

Toward the end of the program, a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine will interview the celebrity guest, Pacino, about his film career.

The annual event is a major contributor to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City’s annual budget, bringing in more than $1 million last year alone.

And every penny counts, said David Smith, the organization’s president.

Money raised at Kids Night Out supports the operating budget for its five local Boys & Girls Clubs that serve nearly 1,000 kids daily.

Smith estimates it costs around $2,500 to support each child per year for all of the organization’s programs, events and activities.

To encourage big spenders to attend the fundraiser, organizers seek impressive celebrities to draw a crowd. In its nearly 20-year history, Kids Night Out has featured special guests such as John Travolta, Michael Douglas, Julie Andrews and cast members from the ABC hit show “Modern Family.”

“We look for iconic levels of celebrities and personalities,” Smith said. “We want someone who will bring in patrons and dollars because our ultimate goal is to raise money for our kids.”

Another highlight of the event is the live auction.

This year, it will feature top-shelf items such as tropical getaways, personal dinners from top Kansas City chefs, and a photo shoot with Pacino.

“It’s really a unique auction because these are one-of-a-kind items,” Smith said. “The energy during the live auction is electric and exciting. It’s really a lot of fun.”

But the event is more than rubbing elbows with Hollywood royalty and raising money, Smith said.

“It’s about raising awareness,” he said simply.

After all, most people know the organization’s name but they don’t know much about the specific ways the Boys & Girls Clubs has helped Kansas City youth in the past 102 years, he pointed out.

The organization has five Kansas City area facilities — with a sixth one coming soon to Olathe — in high-need areas where median family income averages $25,000.

It offers youth sports, such as baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling and weight training. It provides nutritional programs, focusing on the benefits of healthy eating and exercise.

In the summer, several Kansas City area teachers volunteer their expertise and time to run a summer school for kids slipping behind on their grades.

In addition to academics, the organization tries to make the summer program fun by offering field trips, speakers and activities. There is also a summer fair held at the end of summer.

Other events throughout the year include field trips to sporting events and community service projects.

“There are so many kids who live in circumstances where they aren’t receiving the preparation to be productive citizens,” Smith said. “There is a critical mass of kids in our core without the proper resources to succeed in life. These kids have dreams and aspirations and they just need the opportunity to grow those talents.”

At the end of the day, its mission is simple.

“Our primary goal is that 100 percent of our active members graduate from high school,” he said. “It’s very sad that in 2014 that has to be our goal. But the state of public education in urban areas around the nation is unfortunate.”

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