September 14, 2005 - Moms and dads hit the town as Catalina Foothills School District Foundation jump-started the fund-raising season with a bang Sept. 8 at its Great Kick-Off Party.

In a sea of parents, teachers, principals and governing board members, the party went on after dark in the courtyard of St. Philip's Plaza, 4380 N. Campbell Ave.

The event included drinks, appetizers and a live auction. It was a way to raise money for the district's foundation.

In 2004, the foundation raised $310,000 for the Catalina Foothills School District. The money raised, through similar events held throughout the year, went toward providing four additional elementary school teachers, alternative educational programs at the middle school level, honors high school geometry at the middle school level and 2.5 teaching positions at the high school.

The Great Kick-Off Party is the first in a series of food-themed fund-raising events titled "What's Cooking," all of which are organized by the foundation.

"It validates everything that we work for," said John Hicks, the foundation president.

Hicks reminded the crowd as everyone mingled, sipped champagne and ate, that the event was "all for the children."

Thousands of dollars were raised through a live auction. The most money was brought in by Lute Olson, with his autographed basketballs, jerseys, game tickets and a dinner with the famed University of Arizona basketball coach at Anthony's in the Catalina's, 6440 N. Campbell Ave.

"I live in the Foothills and have 13 grandkids who are either going to Foothills schools or have gone through the Foothills schools," Olson said.

"It's a great school," he told the crowd.

Patricia Shaffer, owner of Martinizing Dry Cleaning, is a foundation member and the parent of a 7-year-old who attends Manzanita Elementary School. She said she knew she had to get involved in the foundation and raise money for the district and its various programs.

Shaffer, a busy business owner, admitted there are other foundation members who may do more to raise money but said she is doing what she can to increase the amount of money raised.

"I'm stunned," she said about what the foundation accomplishes and about how much money is donated. "I'm amazed."

Shaffer admitted she was a bit disappointed she couldn't call herself a PTA mom, since the district doesn't use "PTA" to describe its association for parents and teachers. Whatever it is called, it does "phenomenal work," she said.

Always a charitable man who makes many appearances throughout the Tucson community, K.C. An, owner of Sakura Teppan Steak & Sushi, said that even though he has no children in the Foothills district he wanted to donate any way he could to a "beautiful town."

"Without Tucson, I am nobody," An said. "I like to give back as much as possible."

Lila Yamashiro, owner of Acacia, a contemporary American restaurant nestled in St. Philip's Plaza, said that when she was approached to be a sponsor of the foundation's kickoff party she couldn't and wouldn't think about turning down the opportunity.

Her husband, also the executive chef of Acacia, has always been involved in helping the foundation, and when it was time for this year's event, it was a perfect fit, she said.

"This is a fun event," Hicks said as he greeted his way through the crowd. And he looks forward to many more throughout the school year.

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