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TUNING UP TO HELP OUT FAMILY NETWORK

A near capacity crowd of 150 clamored for encores last weekend in Bennett Hall at Ravinia after a spellbinding performance by classical violinist Leonidas Kavakos of Athens as part of a fundraiser for Highland Park-based Family Network Inc., a non-profit parenting organization.

Bowing to his audience, Kavakos and his accompanist, pianist Peter Nagy, did not disappoint. Kavakos' recital was one in a series of 18 concerts showcasing up-and-coming artists in Ravinia Park's Rising Stars series, running from last Oct. 15 to May 13.

"These young artists are going to be the 21st Century virtuosos," said Jack Zimmerman, media coordinator for Ravinia.

The scene shifted then to a more intimate setting in a room steeped in Ravinia pre-concert history. Turn-of-the century Tiffany lamps-remnants from its days as an amusement park and casino-hung over cozy tables that awaited concertgoers, who paid $75 each for an evening of music and a cocktail reception with the artist.

The cocktail chatter quickly turned to what draws this diverse assemblage together.

"When I think of Family Network, three words come to mind: prevention, connection and community. That's what Family Network is all about," said Esther Emmerman of Highland Park, co-chairwoman of the fundraiser.

When Rosa Machabanski and husband Arthur Bloch recently relocated to Highland Park, Machabanski said, the organization was a way to meet other mothers and children.

"I've gotten as much from it as my daughter," said Machabanski, who is expecting the couple's second child in the fall.

"We were new in Highland Park, and it was a great way to meet other parents in the community. For Rebecca, it was a safe place to play," Machabanski said.

Family Network is a non-sectarian, non-profit community-based center for families with children from birth to 4 years of age. It serves more than 250 families from Highland Park and 30 surrounding communities annually. Among those services are supervised playrooms, an indoor gym and a parents' lounge.

"I look at Family Network for the children. It's a wonderful place to take the children. It's a place they enjoy and can socialize," said Jamey Cohm of Highland Park, whose wife, Linda Arkules Cohm, was co-chairwoman of the concert and reception.

Organizers estimated that the fundraiser will net $15,000 to $20,000, including money from corporate sponsors, to be used for operating expenses and expansion of services.

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