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State Theatre New Jersey Benefit Raises $624,604

L-R: STNJ President & CEO Tom Carto, Ronald G. Rios, Freeholders Leslie Koppel, Blanquita B. Valenti, Charles E. Tomaro, Shanti Narra, and STNJ Chair of the Board of Trustees Scott Fergang. Credits: Jeff Auger
L-R: Principal Jeffrey Jones and Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Craig Guiffre from American Benefits Consulting accept their award on stage from STNJ President & CEO Tom Carto. Credits: Jeff Auger
Honorees Brent and Susan Podlogar accept their award on the State Theatre New Jersey stage. Credits: Jeff Auger
State Theatre New Jersey Benefit Gala artist and six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald performing on the State Theatre New Jersey stage. Credits: Jeff Auger

On May 13, 2017 the State Theatre New Jersey Benefit Gala, featuring six-time Tony Award®-winner Audra McDonald, raised $624,604 for the not-for-profit performing arts center. Proceeds from the Benefit Gala support State Theatre New Jersey’s acclaimed artistic and educational programs.

“We were thrilled to have Tony®, Grammy®, and Emmy® Award-winning artist and arts advocate Audra McDonald as our Benefit Gala performer this year,” commented State Theatre President & CEO Tom Carto. “It was a great evening of entertainment and philanthropy, all in support of our mission of providing arts education programs to inform and build future audiences.”

“We exceeded our fundraising goal by over 10%, which was terrific! More importantly, this was a night where everyone had a lot of fun,” added Scott Fergang, State Theatre New Jersey’s Chair of the Board and Benefit Gala Co-Chair. “I want to say thank you to the Gala Committee, Board, staff, and volunteers for their hard work and dedication in making this event a tremendous success.”

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This year’s Benefit Gala featured a performance by singer and actress Audra McDonald. In addition to a record-breaking six Tony® Awards—distinguishing her as the most decorated performer in American theater—she is the recipient of two Grammy® Awards, an Emmy® Award, and a 2015 National Medal of Arts bestowed on her by President Barack Obama. Her performance on May 13 included songs from the great American songbook and Broadway favorites—including “Summertime,” “I Could Have Danced all Night,” and “Climb Every Mountain.” After her performance, she paid a special visit to Gala guests in the ballroom, emphasizing the importance of arts education and how it changed her life.

The State Theatre 2017 Benefit Gala recognized three honorees this year—Corporate honoree, American Benefits Consulting; Patron honorees, Brent and Susan Podlogar; and Leadership in the Arts honorees, Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios and the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said: “The Freeholder Board is committed to giving our residents the chance to learn, to perform and to enjoy the arts in all its forms. We are dedicated to making Middlesex County a destination for people from all over the Northeast Region for top quality arts and cultural programs and performances. It is with the help of our artists, our cultural and arts centers, our local arts and cultural groups and their patrons that we can achieve this. So we thank State Theatre CEO and President Tom Carto and the State Theatre Board, staff, and patrons for their help in making the arts accessible to all our residents.”

“This year’s Gala was truly a night to remember,” said Brent and Susan Podlogar. “We have long supported the arts and the growth of arts education in our communities and we thank the State Theatre for this incredible honor.”

“We appreciate the State Theatre for honoring us and we thank them for all they do to make New Jersey a better place through the power of live performance,” said Craig J. Guiffre, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of American Benefits Consulting and State Theatre New Jersey Trustee.

Almost 500 patrons attended the Black-Tie Dinner Dance at New Brunswick’s The Heldrich Hotel. Among the attendees were community, arts, business, and civic leaders from central New Jersey and around the state. In addition to the concert, Gala festivities included a dinner reception, a silent auction with over 70 items, open bars, Viennese dessert buffets, dancing, and live music provided by the Gerard Carelli Orchestra.

The State Theatre 2017 Benefit Gala committee included (Chair of the State Theatre New Jersey Board of Trustees, Gala Co-Chair) Scott Fergang of Ramsey; Barbra Fergang of Ramsey; (Gala Vice-Chair) Linda Piscadlo of Somerset; (Trustee, Gala Vice-Chair) Matt Taylor of Marlboro; (Gala Vice-Chair) Tracy Taylor of Marlboro; (Corporate Co-Chair, MetLife) Bradd M. Chignoli of Westfield; (Corporate Co-Chair, Insigniam) Shideh Sedgh Bina of Villanova, PA; Dee Abedradoh of Kendall Park; Lisa Berlin of Highland Park; Hiam Boraie of Milltown; Meredith Bzdak of High Bridge; Michael Bzdak of High Bridge; Cathy Gombas of East Brunswick;  (Trustee) Craig Guiffre of Scotch Plains; Eileen Harkins of New Brunswick; (Trustee) Bill Herman of Clifton; Gabriel Lavigne of Colts Neck; Richard T. McDonald of Millstone Township; Donna Miyamoto of Whitehouse Station; Karen Needham of Hillsborough; Theresa Ragozine of Spring Lake; John Reissner of Tinton Falls; Maggie Stavrianidis of Somerset; Kateryna Synyak; Wendy Wiebalk of Piscataway; Melanie Willoughby of West Windsor; and Jennifer Zimmer of Edison.

The Emerald Gala Sponsors included: American Benefits Consulting, Insigniam, and MetLife.

The Diamond Gala Sponsors included: Aetna; Bob and Joan Campbell; EY; and Alma Scott.

Platinum Partners included: Brent and Susan Podlogar.

More photos available upon request.

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