Ingrid Michaelson at the Granada Theatre

What do you get when you cross a platinum-selling artist, a silent auction, and a Fiat giveaway? The answer: A sold-out theater and $312,000 raised for charity. Not bad for an event hosted by a group of teenagers.

Nonprofit organization Kids Helping Kids is composed primarily of students from San Marcos High School, who spent their Saturday night ushering well over a thousand ticket holders into the Granada Theatre. The event was not only impressively attended but inspiring. The show began with a video montage of students explaining how they were able to personally help other kids from around the world by raising money to create safe houses for child prostitutes in other countries and to help work against child hunger in the U.S. and abroad. Ryan Innes from The Voice sang while students from San Marcos flooded the stage in silence, bearing candles in solemnity, followed by Royals Got Talent contest winners Kinsley Shinn and Hana Loggins, performing a rendition of 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Amnesia.”

After a reverential start, singer/songwriter/pianist Jon McLaughlin took the stage and lightened the mood with an intimate and interactive set that included him joking with the audience and lightheartedly mocking himself between songs. However, it was McLaughlin’s soulful piano playing and pointed lyrics that captured the hearts of listeners, inadvertently stealing the show with his powerful display of emotion. Although not many of the show’s attendees knew of McLaughlin at the beginning of his set, by the end many were singing along, and his merchandise booth was packed for the rest of the night.

McLaughlin’s set was followed by a half-hour intermission in which patrons were encouraged to bid in a silent auction. Auction items varied in prices and ranged from yoga certificates at Salt Cave Santa Barbara to sold-out tickets to see Taylor Swift in Florida. The event’s charismatic 17-year-old emcee finished up the intermission by calling Chris, the winner of the Fiat raffle, on his cell phone — only to discover that the man who picked up the phone was in fact named Gabe. Gabe then proceeded to hang up on not only the emcee and the entire audience but also his free car.

The headlining event of the evening was platinum-selling singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, who took the stage with a full five-person band and a ukulele. Michaelson performed with such ease and buoyancy that the show felt more like a few friends hanging out at band practice than at a sold-out performance. Michaelson’s set was spot-on with the crowd, too, consisting of covers of classic songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread),” and her own upbeat tracks “You and I” and “The Way I Am.” More than once during the show, Michaelson had the house lights raised so that the audience could sing and dance with her.

Thanks to the hard work of the performers and San Marcos students, along with the generosity of the patrons, Kids Helping Kids was able to exceed its $300,000 yearly goal by $12,000, proving that the dreams of a few Santa Barbara students can change the lives of those around the world — all while putting on a remarkable show.


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