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Guests bid on auction lots, ate dinner, and raised their glasses to salute Calistoga’s Hearts and Hands Preschool during Saturday’s “Small Hands Big Hearts” fundraiser.

Aside from preparing for kindergarten, kids leave Hearts and Hands with lasting friendships and the basic life skills that will serve them for many years, supporters said.

“We’re preparing them for success all the way through,” said Denise Benner, the school’s director. “And not only that. We’re preparing them to be good citizens and friends.”

Elly Galindo and Jen Freutel said their daughters have been close friends ever since they met at Hearts & Hands when they two and a half years old.

“They are now 9, going into fifth grade,” Freutel said. “It’s the community, it’s the love, it’s learning how to be part of something. Hearts and Hands gave that to my kids.”

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Saturday’s fundraiser in the Butler Pavilion at the Napa County Fairgrounds featured silent and live auction lots, a raffle, dinner by chef Rick Warkel, wine from various local wineries, and a musical performance by Philip Claypool, who was also involved in the night’s highest-grossing live lot.

The winning bidder paid $2,400 for dinner for 10 at Stephanie Duff-Ericksen’s Calistoga home, with music by Claypool and a four-course dinner by Kathy Stevenson. The event’s total proceeds were still being tallied on Tuesday.

Mayor Chris Canning served as auctioneer, cajoling frequent bidders like Gary Kraus, his colleague on the City Council.

The event’s honorary chairs were Rosie Dunsford, who’s been supporting Hearts & Hands since its inception, and Police Chief Mitch Celaya, who’s been active in community organizations like the UpValley Family Centers, the Boys & Girls Club and Calistoga Rotary.

The audience gave three cheers in honor of the late Marcy Webb, who co-chaired “Small Hands Big Hearts” for two years and remained involved even after her daughter Beatrice left the school. Webb died in April.

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