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‘Saved By a Story’ Benefit Raises Money for Charity — and Builds a Community of Storytellers

“Enough.” One simple word inspired a raft of powerful stories at “Saved By a Story,” a benefit held at Jason and Kathy Katims’ home on Saturday night.

With poetry, music, and even standup comedy, a lineup of 10 performers weighed in on what the theme meant to them — from a former soldier talking about his experiences in Afghanistan (“My friends died for absolutely nothing,” he said) to a grandson mourning his beloved grandmother — and her chicken soup (“When you’re sharing your love with people, you always make more than enough,” he quoted her as teaching him). The evening — which drew a crowd of 150 people — benefited Bard Prison Initiative, which helps people who are incarcerated earn their bachelors degree from Bard College.

It’s all the brainchild of Kathy Katims, who says she was inspired by simply wanting to help. “I had the idea people could share, bring their art and also help other people raise their voice that are not getting heard,” she tells Variety. “It’s a very simple idea that people could come together and have some fun — and help their neighbors.”

The “Enough”-themed evening was the third in the series, following “Coming Home” and “Firsts.” “I try to pick a theme that people can come at from a lot of different ways,” says Kathy Katims. “I thought enough could be self-reflective, ‘Am I enough?’ as well as ‘Enough is enough.’ I picked it because it had that double meaning, and I thought in this moment that’s what people might be feeling.”

Rich Gamarra, a beneficiary of BPI, opened the evening, recounting how the degree he earned through the program helped turn his life around. “I decided I wanted to change my life for my daughter,” said Gamarra, who was sentenced to 6-8 years in prison when he was just 19. “I made sure Daddy came home with a degree.” He earned a masters degree in public health, and now works for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Enough with the judgment,” he said. Bard Prison Initiative will be the subject of a documentary directed by Lynn Novick and executive produced by Ken Burns, slated for release in late 2018.

Josh Radnor, who’s currently in production in New York on Jason Katims’ new NBC drama “Rise,” wrapped the evening with a musical performance with his bandmate Ben Lee. The duo, Radnor & Lee, will release their debut album on November 10. “I’m an actor, but I didn’t think that was enough so I started a band with my friend,” joked Radnor.

Radnor was invited to participate in the night by his showrunner, Jason Katims, after he heard the band play. Radnor agreed to take part after he watched a video about BPI, and called the evening “beautiful.”  “I’m also just reminded that life has its challenges at every single level,” he says. “Some people are suffering more acutely than others but even a blessed life has its real challenges. We’re all in our own heads. And we’re all asking for a little grace somehow.”

Other participants included Winnie Holzman (“My So-Called Life”) and her husband Paul; David Goodman, executive producer of “Family Guy,” and recently elected president of the WGA West; comedian Adam Conover (“Adam Ruins Everything”); writer David Israel (“Unreal”); writer Jeanine Daniels; poet Chinaka Hodge; and folk singer/songwriter Tom Freund.

Jason Katims says he was “blown away” by the experience. “The thing I feel I loved so much about it is everybody brought something different,” he said. “This is one of those things you can be part of that feels like not only are we helping to raise money for this really great cause, but it also feels like we’re building a community as well.”

The next “Saved By A Story,” which will focus on the theme “Green,” will be held February 24 and benefit Film2Future.

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