More than 1,000 community members raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Las Virgenes Schools on Saturday at 's inaugural fundraiser.
Celebrities and government officials were also in attendance at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center for the event organized by the nonprofit, which formed in December 2010 and is solely dedicated to raising funds for the school district.
"Although it is still too early to determine the exact total, we are thrilled to announce that we raised over $400,000 between our ticket sales, sponsorships, silent and live auctions," event co-chair Jessica Pinto Nedick wrote in an email to Patch.
T.H.E. Event sold out a week prior to the fundraiser, according to the foundation's president, Marc Hernandez. "This is fantastic," he said as vendors were setting up. "We were able to bring in 25 restaurants, 30 wineries ... Our goal for this evening is to bring awareness to the community about our foundation and to raise money. This will be the first of many."
Honorary Chair and Band From TV leader Greg Grunberg (The Client List, Heroes) along with his wife, Elizabeth, whose three children attend school in the district, brought out his star-studded group to perform. None of the band members accepted payment for the gig, according to Grunberg.
"This event is important, because people want to help the schools. They just don't know how to do it," he said. "Public schools are so valuable and for businesses and [the community] to support this is the key ... We're playing a Springsteen song tonight, 'We Take Care of Our Own,' and that's what this is all about."
Emcee Chris Harrison (The Bachelor, The Bachelorette), whose two children also attend LVUSD schools, agreed with Grunberg's sentiment. When approached by his school to become involved, he said he couldn't pass up the opportunity.
"This is an award-winning school district, and, luckily, we have an amazing community that says, 'to hell with it, we're gonna fix it ourselves.' And we sold out the event," he said.
Also in attendence were Agoura Hills Council Members Illece Buckley-Weber and Bill Koehler; and Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer and Councilmembers James Bozijian, Fred Gaines and David Shapiro.
The first half of T.H.E. Event, a five-and-a-half-hour program, was comprised of food and wine tastings from local restaurants in addition to a silent auction featuring concert and ballpark tickets, vacations and luxury items.
The second half was comprised of live performances, speeches and specially produced T.H.E. videos, emceed by Harrison. A group of middle school students from the district kicked off the night with their band Infringe.
During a short speech, Hernandez rallied the crowd by likening the evening to a commencement exercise. "This is the beginning of a time when our community comes together to say 'enough!'" he said. "We will not settle for larger classroom sizes; we will not settle for a shorter school year; and we most certainly will not settle for mediocre education for our children!"
The live auction section was highlighted by an Aerosmith Concert package at the Hollywood Bowl that sold for $10,500.
During the live auction portion of the program, audience members made generous donations of $1,800 for a week and $360 for a day to "save the teachers."
"We are especially humbled by the $85,000 that was raised in just 10 minutes during the 'raise the paddle' segment of the live auction," said Pinto Nedick. "This community came together in a very big way."
The Band From TV was the big favorite of the evening, featuring celebrity performers like James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Adrian Pasdar (Ultimate Spiderman, Heroes) and Jorge Garcia (Alcatraz, Lost), rocking the house with hit tunes like "Pink Cadillac," "Wrote Me a Letter" and "Walking in Memphis."
Donald Zimring, outgoing LVUSD superintendent, told Patch that this kind of event is what the community has been sorely needing for the past decade. "It's important to note that because of events like this, we have actually planned for next year in a manner that other places haven't," he said. "We're looking forward to a relatively stable year when other districts are looking at Armageddon."
Incoming Superintendent Dan Stepenosky echoed Zimring's remarks, adding, "I worked closely with Marc and the foundation in getting this thing off the ground. It's a team effort, a true gathering of the community," he said.
At the end of the evening, Jessica Kiernan, principal for Willow Elementary, told Patch, "This was the most amazing, community building event we have ever seen. From the eastside to the westside, these are parents who care about their kids and education," she said.
And on her Facebook page the next day, (Jenslist), co-chair of the auction committee, wrote: "I feel truly blessed to have been part of helping raise way beyond what we ever expected to. T.H.E. Event could have never happened without the combined love, dedication and passion from Deanna Phillips Glassberg, Jessica Pinto Nedick and Marc Hernandez."