We’re proud to announce that our annual luncheon, Bookwich, with special guest Catherine Keener, was an amazing success. With the indispensable help of our donors, sponsors, and volunteers, we were able to raise almost $108,000. This money will help 826 continue to offer student programming at schools throughout San Francisco and in our writing lab. 826 Valencia would like to offer a special thanks to Catherine Keener for her participation in the event. We also greatly appreciate the support of our generous sponsors: Brilliant Ink, Matt Middlebrook and Lisa Presta, Maverick, Kristen and Michael Beckwith, as well as The Barbarian Group, Martorana Family Winery, Morgan Lewis, Mary Schaefer, Wild Planet, and Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy, LLP. We would like to also thank all of our guests and table hosts, without whom the luncheon would not have been possible.
The event began just before noon on Wednesday, May 18. The tables were gorgeously set as guests began to file into the ballroom at The St. Regis hotel in downtown San Francisco, eagerly eyeing their plates of poached wild striped bass and grilled arctic char. The luncheon started with an introduction from Executive Director Leigh Lehman, relating to the audience the tireless efforts of 826 Valencia’s small army of volunteers, who connect with thousands of students every year to make a difference in our education system. Then, while the guests began their delicious meals, 826 co-founder Dave Eggers introduced two small, bearded — could it be? — James Liptons, who, in actuality, were none other than two of our dedicated students, Marcel and Jack. Eggers then introduced the luncheon’s distinguished guest, Catherine Keener. The stage was transformed (almost literally) into the set of Inside the Actors Studio as the James Liptons interviewed the two-time Oscar nominee about her childhood, her breakthrough into acting, and — apropos of her role in Being John Malkovich — whose head she’d like to climb into if she had that kind of power.
After the interview, Ms. Keener ran for a quick costume change as two of our after-school tutoring students, Marco and Citlalli, prepared to perform The Robot’s Big Wish, a one-act play they had penned specifically for the event. The performance centered on a monkey, played by Marco, and his best friend, a robot (painted a brilliant maudlin hue by Keener) whose only wish was to become human. After reviewing the ways that they’d already tried to make her feel human (standing on her head, wearing swishy-sounding corduroy), the pair finally decided to ask for help from the Goth Fairy, a tempestuous (if not downright vindictive) sprite played by Citlalli. Despite the Goth Fairy’s wrath, the play concluded with everyone learning a valuable lesson about friendship and then heading off to the disco to complete the happily-ever-after dénouement.
During desert, diners were treated to a speech by Olive Mitra, an outstanding community leader and teacher at San Francisco’s June Jordan School for Equity, who talked about his participation as the collaborating teacher for 826 Valencia’s 2011 Young Authors’ Book Project. He emphasized the power of 826 volunteers to inspire the students with whom they interact, encouraging them to establish individuality through creative expression.
The final speaker was 826 Valencia board member Tommy Mike. Mike discussed his role as a volunteer and board member, highlighting the continued need in the educational community for an organization such as 826 Valencia. After noting how much he wished that 826 was around when he was a kid, Mike asked the guests for their continued generosity and patronage, which allows 826 to offer support to teachers and under-served students in San Francisco schools.
826 Valencia would like to offer another grateful thanks to Catherine Keener (isn’t she wonderful, though?), as well as our outstanding sponsors, students, guests, and volunteers, all of whom made this event a resounding success. We would also like to thank The St. Regis for helping us create such a beautiful atmosphere for our our guests. We hope you’re already as excited as we are about next year’s luncheon, when we’ll be celebrating our tenth anniversary!