- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2009

KEEN, a volunteer-based nonprofit that encourages exercise through recreational programs for area children with disabilities, is hosting its ninth annual KEENFest fundraiser Thursday.

In its 17th year, KEEN - Kids Enjoy Exercise Now - has developed into a nationwide organization with seven affiliates across the country that provide the group’s innovative programs to children and families.

On weekends throughout the year, KEEN participants are paired with a volunteer coach to take part in the organization’s gym-based sports, swimming, tennis, fitness, bowling and music activities. Amanda Polk, a national board member, says the highly trained coaches are skilled in teaching children with disabilities.

Mrs. Polk also points out that the program gives the children’s parents a “timeout” from the demands of caring for a special-needs child.

KEENFest, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center, is the organization’s largest fundraiser for the year and features local and national celebrities from the world of sports. This year’s stars include Stuart Scott, ESPN SportsCenter anchor; Washington Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato; and Michael Wilbon, Washington Post sports columnist and host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.”

Along with the buffet, guests can check out the items offered at the silent auction, including tickets to “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”; a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando with park passes to Disney World; and a trip to Las Vegas with a stay at the Bellagio and tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s “O.”

Sponsorship levels range from $500 to $20,000. Individual tickets, which can be purchased at www.keengreaterdc.org, start at $125 - $200 for VIP tickets.

KOA dinner

Knock-Out Abuse Against Women (KOA) is marking its 16th year of fighting domestic violence with a Nov. 5 dinner that will bring together more than 700 female movers and shakers, including actress Robin Givens, a victim of spousal abuse, as keynote speaker.

Since it began, the KOA dinner has raised $6.5 million for the local nonprofit, which raises awareness and funding to combat violence against women.

Danielle Piacente, a spokeswoman for KOA, says last year’s dinner raised $500,000 and she expects that goal to be met again this fall. A portion of the funds are absorbed by KOA, while the remainder will be distributed among a plethora of local family organizations, including Bethany House, Crossway Community, N Street Village, My Sister’s Place, Safe Shores and the Children’s Law Center.

This year’s silent and live auctions will feature items from Washington area businesses, including a dinner with the Washington Redskins’ Clinton Portis and two tickets to the BET awards dinner in June 2010.

Tickets to the dinner, which will be held at the downtown Ritz-Carlton Hotel, start at $500 and can be purchased at www.knockoutabuse.org.

Wet, wild rumpus

Youngsters at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Northeast Washington got some extra encouragement to play outdoors recently when the National Wildlife Federation hosted Wild Rumpus Day in conjunction with Warner Bros. and its release of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

The weather wasn’t very cooperative, however: A cold rain fell on the playground, putting a damper on some outdoor activities. That didn’t stop politicians and activists from participating in the day’s festivities and helping the National Wildlife Federation launch its Be Out There campaign to encourage children to get exercise and develop an appreciation for nature by playing outside.

Jayni Chase, environmental activist, author and wife of comedian Chevy Chase, read Maurice Sendak’s classic book to more than 600 children. Rep. Lois Capps, California Democrat, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Hank Kashdan also spoke to the group.

Later in the day, more politicians joined the National Wildlife Federation for a special red-carpet screening of the Spike Jonze film, including Rep. John Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat.

- Elizabeth Glover

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