More Than 600 Support Culver City High's Casino Night


Fred Altieri

Casino Night 2017 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium

Sweet charity-stakes gambling, delicious food, cool drinks, jamming DJ music, multiple auctions and good times defined the Culver City High Booster Club's 10th Annual Casino Night.

More than 600 school supporters stepped out in style to benefit the athletic programs and school clubs on Saturday, March 4 at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium.

Hundreds of items were up for bid in a silent auction as well as nine enticing packages featured in a live auction. Contributions and appearances by former star athletes were greatly appreciated by the festive highrollers. As expected, the house won... for the school and the community.

"I think it was a big success. I truly appreciate all that everybody gave and the people that come out to support. The high school is the center of activity for a lot of things and it really speaks to a lot of people. It crosses a lot of different sections of the community," said Booster Club president Lance Johnson.

"We're going to be close to what we brought in last year. We're looking around raising $50,000 gross. We really rely on the community members to donate time, money and effort. Because of that a good 95% of the money goes directly back to the teams and the Booster Club for use for the teams."

Practically everything was donated, from the auction items to the blackjack tables dominating the gaming action to the very popular roulette wheel and crap tables strategically located near a fully-stocked bar complimented by tables of appetizers and local cuisine.

There was even a role for new Culver City Unified School District Superintendent Josh Arnold. "This year we were fortunate enough to have Josh volunteer. It was his first Casino Night and he graciously offered to M.C. the live auction. He did a great job. We were able to draw quite a bit of money on the live auction," said Johnson.

Swept up in the live auction included the ever-popular Prom Package and two Graduation In Style reservation deals. Vacation packages to Napa, Mexico and Mammoth Lakes, Laker suite tickets, Peter O'Malley rare autographed baseball cards, and an orthodontic treatment from McComb Orthodontics drew plenty of attention.

The Booster Club is currently comprised of nine board members and over 150 club members who support the Culver High athletic and club programs. Members include a number who no longer have children going to Culver High but remain committed to the school and organization.

"All of us realize the importance that sports and school programs can bring and what that does for keeping the kids engaged in school, keeping them out of trouble and giving them opportunities to go to college," said Johnson.

"The great thing is every year we get more and more donations from the community. Scott and Larry Zeidman are the architects of this whole thing. They do a phenomenal job. Scott has always taken the lead on getting donations. Larry is the main architect in making the operations of the whole thing run.

"So Scott will go out and communicate with all the businesses. We get different groups soliciting for donations. Coaches have connections with those who will donate. Coach Rayfield Beaton (track Olympian, USC and CCHS girls track coach) knows a lot of professional athletes and invites them to donate and participate in Casino Night.

Former star athletes were very popular as they mingled with the parents, faculty, administrators and residents on the packed casino floor. Accommodating camera-phone admirers were NFL stars: Rod Martin (USC), Sam "Bam" Cunningham (USC), Calvin Sweeney (USC), Ron Wheeler (Washington) and 1984 Gold Medal boxer Henry Tillman.

The Booster Club also serves as the accountant for the sports and club programs. They also fund the end-of-the-year awards for the various sports teams, scholarships, events such as cheer team and robotics team competitions. Rings for this year's CIF Championship girls varsity volleyball team were also part of the agenda.

Johnson: "We effectively act as a bank for a lot of the teams. Each team has an account with us including non-athletic clubs. We do all of the accounting. The general account is what will fund items that go across the whole school.

"Where the district won't pay or doesn't have the financial wherewithal to do it we'll come in and cover the difference. We try to make sure where there are gaps or shortfalls to making the teams better we go ahead and use the money for that.

"A team may fundraise or have donations and the Booster Club will take that in. That money goes into their account. We have a monthly meeting and go through the financials of each team.

"If there's a specific request to fund a certain item it has to go through the process and be put on the agenda in the prior month. Usually Tom Salter (Culver High athletic director) will provide a list of things that are out there. Then the Board will have a formal vote on various items for funding those requests.

"There's a transparency in terms of what's happening. We can see what money's going in and what's going out. Parents get a much better understanding of what the money is going toward."

Over 100 sponsors made Casino Night 2017 a financial success: merchandise, restuarants, sports, theatre, workout, food, drinks and table sponsors.

Recognized Gold Table Sponsors: Culver Crossroads, Culver City POA, HeArt Realtors, Kelley & Todd Miller, Sorrento Italian Market and Tower Insurance Associates Inc.

Fred Altieri

(L-R) Rod Martin (USC, NFL), Jahmal Wright (CCHS Alumni, Head Coach), Calvin Sweeney (USC, NFL) , Greg Dynabursky (CCHS Alumni, Sports Announcer), Ron Wheeler (NFL-Raiders), Sam 'Bam' Cunningham (USC, NFL) and Henry Tillman (Boxer - 1984 Gold Medalist)

Silver Table Sponsors included: Cavanaugh Realtors, CCPD Management Assn., Community Discount Card, Culver Volleyball Club, Rocco's Tavern, McComb Orthodontics, NKP Medical, Richard Hibbs, CPA and Riordan Plumbing. Special thanks went to: Red's Flavor Table, NG, Eagle Sports, and Sorrento's Italian Market.

"I've been fortunate with my kids to play sports after school and having success. So I think it's one of the most important things to keep kids engaged. If we can spend a little time and money on our end to make that happen and give the kids the opportunities we had. It's an easy give for a lot of folks," concluded Johnson.

"It doesn't happen without the community. It's a testament to Culver City and it's a testament to the people who are involved in this and the importance that they put into making sure it goes back to the teams. It's not about the people doing it, it's about the kids and what they get out of it."


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