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HELP! Japan Fundraiser Kicks Off Thursday in Oak Park

...And they do appreciate ya bein' round.

The opening of the HELP! Japan fundraiser is just hours away, and organizer GiGi Wong-Monaco is zipping around , the incense-tinged storefront in the Oak Park Arts District she owns with her husband Clar. 

The phone rings. A delivery arrives — three framed Beatles photos bound for the auction table at Thursday's fundraiser, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at .

The phone rings again. This time, it's Trattoria 225's owner confirming plans for stage set up. 

Clearly, Wong-Monaco is living in the frenzied, 11th-hour pace that accompanies any hastily planned event, but it's a pace she's been on since news of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami pummeled parts of Japan last month. 

"This fundraiser was put together in about three to four weeks, but it could've took six months or longer," she said. 

Wong-Monaco, who's part Japanese, said she was stricken by the helpless feeling of watching news coverage of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami that also threatened her native Hawaii.

So she asked for a little help from her friends, the Beatlemaniac community in Chicago and beyond who have rallied in recent weeks to donate their musical talents, Beatles artwork or simply a helping hand to the cause. (On a recent visit to the store, a friend of the Wong-Monaco's was picking cherry blossom petals to attach on the event program's she'd just folded.)

Eight musical acts — including Clar Monaco's SANDALWOOD sitar ensemble, Wong-Monaco's and Brit Beat, billed as America's top Fab Four tribute band — will take the stage beginning at 6 p.m. Several pieces of art, including a Beatles lamp, CD stand and a painting, will be up for auction. Raffles will take place throughout the night. 

Terri Hemmert, WXRT 93.1's beloved DJ (and famous Beatlemaniac herself), will emcee the evening. 

All proceeds from Thursday's event will benefit the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Tsunami relief efforts. 

"The outpouring of help has been incredible, and that's the whole thing...to help Japan, to get out, to come together and to share in the camaraderie of the Beatles community," she said. "It's really incredible." 

The HELP! Japan fundraiser takes place Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Trattoria 225, 225 Harrison St. in Oak Park. Tickets are $40 and are available here, or $45 at the door. Price includes admission and appetizers; Cash bar. 

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