MARQUEE - Musicians come together to help Walla Walla children

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A trumpet player plays among strings of lights at Walla Walla Foundry during last year's Jazz and Wine Among Friends fundraiser.

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The audience soaks up the sounds of a jazz band, the taste of some good wine and a beautiful evening at the Walla Walla Foundry.

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Dr. Mark Brown performs with Gail Pettis during last year's Jazz and Wine Among Friends.

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In every neighborhood of the Walla Walla Valley there are children who need a little extra support and love in their life -- kids who want help with their homework or simply a friend to play with. Friends of Children of Walla Walla, a local non-profit agency, works to match these young people with mentors.

As part of its ongoing fundraising efforts, the Friends program is holding its fourth annual Jazz and Wine Among Friends festival in Walla Walla, which starts on Aug. 26 and continues through Aug. 28.

Friends of Children of Walla Walla was founded in 1999, and since then, more than 550 relationships have been established between adult mentors and youth between 6 and 17 years old.

"The people of Walla Walla have been wonderfully supportive of our program, both as volunteers and as donors," marketing manager Nicole McCauley said.

"Friends was started by locals, and because it was locally formed, it has been locally supported."

It is easy to support such a program when the stated mission of the mentoring organization is so beautiful in its simplicity -- "to improve lives and communities -- one child at a time."

The group's efforts are based on "national research that shows the value of children having a consistent, caring adult in their lives outside the home." Friends mentors are given intensive training and screening and are paired with children "based on similar interests and hobbies."

The fundraising festival is just one way that Friends hopes to balance its books whilst strengthening its ties with the community, and if a little extra entertainment is brought to the town too, it is definitely fine with them.

"It's a chance to enjoy some live jazz with local wines in several beautiful indoor and outdoor settings," McCauley said.

"All ticket proceeds go to the mentoring program."

Tickets for the Aug. 26 night event will cost $20, but a single ticket allows the bearer to attend any of the five jazz concerts being held in several downtown venues from 4:30 p.m. to almost midnight. A dedicated jazz or wine enthusiast could conceivably make it to every event.

Paul West will play at the Sinclair Estate Vineyards at 4:30 p.m. The Crawford-Glenn Band will perform at Walla Faces at 6 p.m. The Darin Clendenin Trio will be at The Marcus Whitman Hotel at 6:30 p.m. Philly King Bee & The Stingers will bring their music to Laht Neppur at 7 p.m. Mark Brown, Gary Romjue and Friends will perform at Sapolil Cellars at 8 p.m.

On Aug. 27, festivities continue outdoors under the August sun, when two groups -- Pete Crawford, Dave Glenn and their band, and the acclaimed Gail Pettis Quartet from Seattle -- will perform at Waterbrook Winery at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets for the Aug. 27 event are $60, which includes hors d'oeuvres and desserts with a glass of Waterbrook wine.

Waterbrook will provide additional bottles for sale with a custom Friends label featuring artwork by local designer Matt McKern.

The last event is a New Orleans-style jazz brunch Aug. 28 at 10 and 11:30 a.m. at Whitehouse-Crawford.

Entertainment during the two-course, Southern-style meal will be provided by Seattle's Uptown Lowdown Jazz Quartet. Tickets for the Sunday event cost $30, but $10 can be saved by purchasing a ticket to all three events for $100.

Tickets are available on the Friends website or at the downtown visitor center in Walla Walla.

Dr. Mark Brown, executive director of Friends of Children of Walla Walla, shared his enthusiasm for the series of fundraising concerts, which he hopes will entertain as well as educate attendees about the importance of the Friends program.

"I hope that people come away from the weekend with an enriched appreciation for the diverse forms of jazz we have in the Northwest, a glow from sharing music, wine and our glorious weather with friends and family and a feeling of having supported a vital service for the children of our Valley."

If you are interested in attending or have any questions about the event or if you are interested in volunteering or donating, please call the Friends office at (509) 527-4745.

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