Night of magic to benefit Shaler schools

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

Shaler Area parents have something different up their sleeves to help raise money for enrichment programming in the schools.

The eight school-building PTOs have come together to organize a districtwide fundraising event — “Shaler Magic!” — on Feb. 8 at the Shaler Area High School auditorium.

“I think this is the first time this has been done where all the PTOs come together for a fundraiser, so we're trying to pull all our resources,” said Athena Pacek, magic-show coordinator and vice president of the Jeffery Primary parent teacher organization.

Pacek said the goal has been to create a night of entertainment and fun for the whole Shaler Area community. Before the main event, volunteers will serve pizza, hot dogs, nachos, ice cream and a variety of other food donated by local restaurants in the high school cafeteria, and tickets will be available for a Chinese auction with baskets and items from local vendors.

The magic show will feature illusionist Dan Kuniak and Dennis Bowman, a ventriloquist and television personality.

Kuniak of Frazer started practicing magic at age 7 after receiving a magic set for Christmas and has been performing as a professional magician for more than 35 years.

Kuniak has presented educational shows in the Shaler Area primary schools on recycling and the problem of bullying, as well as entertainment shows for special events, but this is his first large-scale fundraiser for the district.

Kuniak said the evening will be a family-friendly performance that will appeal to a wide range of audience members.

“Dennis is doing the illusion of sound, and I'm doing the illusion of sight and mind,” Kuniak said of their vaudeville-like show. “It's worth coming just for the bad jokes.”

Kuniak and Bowman met while they both were working for a local television station and became friends over their common interest in entertainment.

They have teamed up for a variety of benefits.

Bowman will perform his ventriloquist and stand-up comedy act with a cast of characters including Chester Drawers, and Kuniak will perform classic illusions with a modern twist, such as linking rings, multiplying billiard balls, turning his assistant's head around 360 degrees and levitating a member of the audience.

“We enjoy doing the fundraisers because it's a mutual benefit,” Kuniak said. “The two types of entertainment we do, it entertains all ages. I love to be on stage with Dennis.”

Pacek said because this is the first year for the districtwide fundraising event, the committee isn't sure what kind of response it will get, but she hopes to sell out the high school auditorium, which seats 850.

“What happens beyond that, I don't know,” she said.

All proceeds from the event will be split equally among the eight schools.

The proceeds will be used by the PTOs to fund field trips, special assemblies or enrichment materials for classrooms.

PTO members are considering making the magic show an annual event to provide a night out for Shaler Area families and financial support for the schools.

“It's the middle of winter, and hopefully, people are looking for something to do,” Pacek said. “I think the big thing is it's the entire school district coming together for a fundraiser to bring families together. It brings everyone together, the whole school district.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at

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