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SISTERS IN TUNE WITH FAMILY NETWORK

A musical presentation by Hannah and Sarah Barton, the talented younger sisters of renowned Chicago violinist Rachel Barton, was among the highlights of the recent "Vintage '83" gala at the Highland Park Country Club to benefit the Family Network Inc., a Highland Park-based family resource and support agency celebrating its 15th anniversary. The fundraiser, which drew an estimated 150 people, opened with a cash raffle, wine tasting and silent auction. More than 40 varieties of imported and domestic red and white wines were available for patrons to sample and buy. Parents involved with the agency solicited area businesses to donate the silent-auction items, which included golf lessons, movie passes, a kettle grill and a 10-gallon fish tank with chemicals.

Board President Esther Emmerman of Highland Park was overwhelmed by the parents' efforts. "Our agency is meant to be a respite for parents, so we never really ask anything of them," she said. "This time we did, and they delivered."

The agency honored Highland Park resident Marilyn Straus with its Friend of the Family award for her tireless dedication to the cause of early childhood education and the betterment of family living.

"Children have always been my passion," said Straus, a former teacher and director of Highland Park's Ravinia Nursery School for almost 40 years.

She was one of a group of early-childhood professionals who founded the not-for-profit Family Network in 1983 to provide parental support and social and educational programs to families with young children from birth to age 3, regardless of their geographic location or ability to pay. The agency, which in addition to its myriad programs maintains a daily drop-in center with three supervised playrooms, now serves more than 400 families in more than 30 communities in Lake and Cook Counties.

Violinist Hannah Barton, 11, and cellist Sarah Barton, 21, rounded out the evening with a performance of selected works from their classical repertoire. Both have garnered critical acclaim while performing with various regional orchestras.

The benefit raised about $40,000 to help fund agency programs, according to executive director Diane Philipp.

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