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NEW YORK Even though the focus of Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning's (Pencil) High Performance benefit at Hammerstein Ballroom was to award corporate and government organizations for their commitment to New York public schools, the highlight of the night for the 400 school-age kids attending (winners of contests sponsored by Arista Records and Pencil) was a performance by teen pop singer Avril Lavigne.
The youth-oriented entertainmentwhich was underwritten by Arista, Lavigne's label and event sponsoralso included a performance by hip-hop singer Blu Cantrell, and decor was kept simple and colorful. “There's not a lot of decor because the focus is on raising money,” says Suzanne Tobak, of Tobak-Dantchik Events & Promotions, who produced the event with Cathy Dantchik and Pencil president Ruth Cohen and administrative and events manager Marcy Fred. Musters & Company covered tables in bright fuschia and yellow cloths and topped them with simple gerbera daisy arrangements in the same colors.
During a three-course dinner served by Great Performances, Al Franken welcomed guests, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein spoke, and the awards were presented to the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce, Duane Reade, Irene Lore of Aunt Suzie's Restaurant and Carmen Vega of American Express. Guests left with Lavigne and Santana's latest CDs, Estee Lauder makeup, an NBA baseball cap and the book Hacker Cracker.
Read about last year's Pencil benefit...