The stars of philanthropy and entertainment helped raise money for The Richard Merkin Middle School, Alliance for College Ready Schools, and the United Friends of Children at the third annual celebrity charity Texas Hold’em poker tournament event at the Beverly Hills Hotel last week.

These organizations are dedicated to improving education and giving children an opportunity to attend universities.

“I think the future of our country is education,” said Dr. Richard Merkin, President and CEO, Heritage Provider Network. “If we don’t provide education to our youth, we have a very limited future. I’m dedicated to ensuring these opportunities to as many young people as I can. We hope to raise over $1 million dollars tonight and I’m very pleased we will be able to help our youth.”

Sharing his views were the many guests attending including philanthropists Eli Broad, Michael Milken, Mayor Richard Riordan and celebrities Dennis Haysbert, Kelly Hu, Matt Craven, Richard Karn, Powers Boothe, James Remar, Gabriel Aubry, Vinnie Jones and Chris Rich. Governor and Mrs. Michael Leavitt and Governor and Mrs. Gray Davis were also among the 200 guests.

Poker pros Jerry Yang (2007 World Series of Poker Champion) and Maria Ho (last woman standing at the 2007 World Series of Poker Tournament) both gave players inside tips, but it was Topper Mortimer who won the grand prize. “This is the best charity event on the planet,” said Mortimer. “I won by sheer luck, and am very happy to be here.”

The Richard Merkin Middle School provides students with a safe and supportive learning environment that promotes academic excellence, social responsibility, and college readiness. Preparing students for success at higher educational levels is their mission.

The Alliance for College Ready Schools is devoted to opening and operating successful networks of small high-performing middle schools and high schools in underachieving, low-income communities in California that will graduate students ready for success in college.

United Friends of the Children, through their Housing and Education Programs provides foster youth with the opportunity to graduate from high school, attend and graduate from college and develop a career. This support system steers them towards independence.

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