Voice of Bart bets on poker for charity

Jennifer Harman
Jennifer Harman is one of the pros answering Nancy Cartwright's call for a charity poker event.

Nancy Cartwright, voice of cartoon icon Bart Simpson, will open her home this September for her Third Annual Monte Carlo Night and Texas Hold'em tournament to benefit a local youth program.

A $500 ticket gets entry to both the tournament and the all-day party at Cartwright's Northridge, Calif., home, on Sept. 20. For those who prefer to enjoy the party and watch the poker proceedings from the rail, a ticket runs $250.   

All proceeds from the event will go directly to the LAPD Devonshire Police Activity League Supporters, a local charity organization dedicated to keeping at-risk kids involved in positive activities.

"A No-Brainer"

A crowd of both celebrities and poker pros are expected to turn up for the third annual event, which will award seats in a Sammy Farha, Marco Traniello, Men "The Master" and Van Nguyen, Kenna James and Marsha Waggoner, Kristy Gazes, Barbara Enright, and Mary Jones.

When asked why she's chosen a poker tournament as her means of raising money and awareness for PALS, Cartwright said the decision was a "no-brainer."

"When you look at the entertainment community, these actors and celebrities in film and television, I know a lot of guys who love to play poker. I've got a lot of friends that do that. And when I started look into it, I found out that generally speaking, poker players are pretty generous. They do this quite a bit. There are all kinds of charities that poker players get involved with."

So will the attendees get to face down with Cartwright at the table?

"You know, I couldn't even try to play in this event," she said. "To be honest with you I have plenty to do with welcoming people and signing autographs and generally playing hostess."

"I bop around," Cartwright said, laughing. "I'm very good at bopping."

Nancy and PALS

Cartwright, who describes herself as a "modest" poker player, had a circuitous route to hosting this popular charity event. It all started in 2005 with what she describes as an "epiphany."

"I just sort of looked at my life and was realigning my goals, my personal purposes in my life," Cartwright said. "And at that time I felt real blessed in my life that I had so many good things going for me. I decided I wanted to do more on a grander scale."

That desire led her to a meeting of the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce. She met with the chamber's president, who offered her the opportunity to take on a public relations role as the North Valley's Honorary Mayor. When she accepted, he asked her to meet with Lorraine New, the president of the Devonshire District's PALS organization.

New and other volunteers at the Devonshire PALS program work with off-duty police officers who volunteer their time to give local kids "enriching, rewarding and instructive experiences" - the sorts of activities that were often the domain of the educational system in the past but have fallen by the wayside over the years. Thanks to PALS, kids have access to tutoring, computer lessons, art lessons, fishing, field trips, and a basketball and drill team.

"A lot of the arts and music programs (at school) were cut out," Cartwright said. "And the field trips - when I was a kid, field trips were really special and we were lucky to do maybe one a year. These kids, this program provides them with a lot of opportunities that otherwise they would never have."

After meeting with New, whom she describes as "an amazing leader," Cartwright learned that PALS and Devonshire District councilman Greig Smith had plans but no money to build a new Youth Center. It was then that the idea for Monte Carlo night was born.

In 2006, a crowd of 250 was on hand at Cartwright's home for the first annual casino games and poker tournament, which ran until 3 a.m. Another 450 turned up last year, raising enough money to make the PALS dream a reality.

Thanks to the generosity of 700 of the voiceover actress' friends, groundbreaking on the new youth center was held earlier this summer.

A Unique Atmosphere

If their benefactor's efforts have anything to do with it, the future for the kids at the PALS youth center looks brighter than ever. Cartwright said she expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 people to turn up at her home next month for quite a party.

"The best thing about my fundraiser is the atmosphere. It's at my house instead of a casino and it really is a party atmosphere," she said.

"It's fun, there's games, there's a fabulous band, and it's always fun to see what celebrities will show up. We have magicians, and silent auctions, and a live auction, and a raffle, and great food - it's just a really fun night."

In addition to all the fun and games, Cartwright said there's one more draw that should be irresistible.

"Let's face it - how many time does the voice of a 10-year-old, yellow, spikey-haired boy invite you to come to his house and play?" she asks.

"A lot of the people that live in the community have kids that are big fans, so I get to be a celebrity when most of the time in normal life I'm very anonymous," said the voiceover artist. "It's fun for me to be the hostess at my party and be who I am here. It's just the coolest thing to know that what we're doing can create such a good effect in the community."

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