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Best Charitable Event: A glamorous fund-raiser for a very worthy cause 

George Mark Children's House

Nestled in five gated acres in San Leandro is a house so beautiful you'd wish it were your own. Except that you really don't. For despite the decorator fabrics and extensive gardens, this house was built as a home away from home for ill and dying children and their families. For two years, the George Mark Children's House has cared for 125 children whose families need a break from the grind of daily medical care. To alleviate the cost of such exquisite care, the house hosts an elegant gala each September where guests mingle on lawns between private tours of the house, which closes for a week of cleaning. The food, flowers, and music are top-drawer, which is why three hundred guests coughed up more than $250,000 last fall for high-end travel and wine auction items. Bidding got really feverish when guests were asked to support a child for a day. "The most important thing we do is raise money for these kids," says chief fund-raiser Annie Berlin. "This event makes sure families can come here without the ability to pay."

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