- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Saving children from poverty and abuse is certainly no laughing matter. On Thursday night, however, Save the Children and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus drew barrels of laughs as a parade of elephants, zebras, contortionists, acrobats and clowns including charming Bello with his red, vertical hair entertained thousands of children in the main arena of the MCI Center.
Save the Children's fund-raiser was a newcomer to the already booked-up spring benefit calendar, and organizers were unsure of the financial results.
"We're hoping to raise $300,000," organizer Lynda Webster said. "But it's a first-time event, so we don't really know what to expect."
The evening kicked off at 5:30 with a $250-per-person VIP reception in MCI's Acela lounge, which served as a "pre-show" for benefit committee members and other well-heeled guests who came (many with their children), including Katherine Bradley, Gregory Earls, Mary and Robert Haft, Connie and David Lawson, Hattie Ruttenberg and Jon Molot, Vicki and Roger Sant, Walter and Didi Cutler , and Elayne Bennett.
The food was worlds apart from the fancy cuisine of most high-dollar events and most assuredly calculated to please junior palates: hot dogs and hamburgers with bowls of condiments, macaroni and cheese, and lots of tasty cookies and brownies.
Mrs. Haft, who brought her 9-year-old daughter Laura along with several of the girl's classmates, said she didn't hesitate a moment when Mrs. Webster asked her to work on the event several months ago.
"I have a passionate interest in children's issues," Mrs. Haft said. "It was a privilege for all of us to work on this event."
Contrary to a recent study reporting that few Americans have altered their ways after September 11, event organizers said the attacks have underscored the importance of ensuring that the world's children have enough to eat and receive adequate education and health care.
"The 9-11 experience shows us that desperation makes desperate people," Mrs. Webster said, adding that some of the money raised at the circus event may go to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to Save the Children, 200 million children go without enough to eat each day and one of every four children in Afghanistan dies before his or her fifth birthday,
The nonprofit child-assistance organization, which was founded in Great Britain in 1919 and established in the United States in 1932, estimates that it helps about 9 million children and adults in 50 countries.
Many of the guests were from abroad, representing countries that are dealing with above-avearge birth rates and a high incidence of poverty among children.
Sudanese Charge d'Affairs Khidir Haroun Ahmed and his wife, Howaida Abdelkarim Mahmoud were there, as were Tunisian Ambassador Hatem Atallah, his wife, Faika, and 8-year old son Malek (whose favorite act was the acrobats who did aerial stunts on skis).
"My country is committed to children. We spend one-fourth of our budget on education," Mr. Atallah said. "If a society is going to have a promising future, it needs to devote time and money to children."


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