'Celebrities' dish it up for Hamburger Night

-A A +A
By Bernadette Lauritzen

Anytime you have a chance to fundraise with friends for a good cause, life as you know it is pretty good.
This Monday, local Los Alamos High School senior Keanna Cohen and her posse of pals will be serving up smiles and burgers from 5-8 p.m. at the United Way Hamburger Night, hosted by the Hill Diner.
“The United Way Youth Team members are very involved in many activities and yet they find time and energy to work for this noble cause,” said Morrie Pongratz, the Youth Team adult leader.
Pongratz, himself an avid volunteer, dons the white suit, sideburns and sunglasses from time to time, to allow Elvis to enter the building. The celebrity servers in the past have included; Dr. Gene Schmidt, Dr. Ben Neal and Sparky the Fire Dog, to name a few.
Cohen, a vivacious volunteer, is undeterred when it comes to pulling off a project. She recently took a few moments to rave about her fellow team members.
Cohen praised freshman Justin Dunn, who joined the group last year. She commended Dunn for his leadership and knows if he continues with the program, they will be successful.
Cohen also complimented newcomer, Kayla Suazo, in her first year with the team. This year, Suazo served as the Youth Team’s marketing manager and according to Cohen has done, “a phenomenal job.”
The praise for Cohen isn’t far behind and comes from youth leader, Pongratz. Pongratz began the effort several years ago and asked Cohen to be his first team member.
 “She is responsive to team members’ suggestions, she has a vision that inspires other students, she shows good judgment in filtering the many ‘off-the-wall’ fundraising suggestions that students can propose and finally Keanna has the courage to go forward with unique ideas like staging a dinner on a pedestrian overpass on one of our main thoroughfares,” Pongratz said.
Cohen commends united Way advisor, Marie Marroquin and Pongratz for making events successful and equally enjoyable.
They also realize the importance and value of the local United Way program and their, “Live United,” motto. As students growing up in this community, they understand the value of giving back to local programs that assist others.
The youth goal for this year is $5,000.
“In years past, we have had lines out the door, karaoke and face painting. This year, we will continue the face-painting tradition to encourage families to bring their young children. Our main goal for this event it to serve everyone in the community- from young children to teens to seniors,” Cohen said. “We consider ourselves successful when we see people of all ages at our events.”
“It’s a really good time,” Marroquin said, “The community is able to interact with each other. That’s the fun part — the gathering of the community.”
Suazo said she thinks the community looks forward to seeing each other and are curious about how the celebrity servers will dress.
Dunn said it’s a “really lively atmosphere.”
The cost for dinner is $10 per person and includes a hamburger, French fries and a drink. Reservations are not necessary. No take-out available. For more information, call 662-0800 or visit www.UnitedWayNNM.org. All proceeds benefit United Way of Northern New Mexico

Monitor Features Editor Jennifer Garcia contributed to this story.