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It's probably the largest fund-raising event in town, according to Dimmis W. Zeigler, director of development and public relations for The Children's Center.

Every year, a dinner dance is held at La Caille at Quail Run. This year's event is Thursday, June 23, beginning with a social hour at 6 p.m. A buffet dinner will be served from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and dancing will be to the music of the Riverboat Ramblers.A silent auction will be going on during the evening with a live auction beginning about 9 p.m. Guests will bid on donated items such as a trip to New York City and a visit to the David Letterman Show, Star-for-a-Day - a place in a ZCMI print ad and an extra in a TV commercial or movie, a llama pack camping trip, a Park City season ski pass and skis, a vacation to the Napa Valley wine country of California, Jazz tickets, Hawaii vacations, fine jewelry and art.

Alice Brown, a board member of The Children's Center, is chairwoman of the event for the second year. Under her direction, the list of sponsors has rapidly multiplied. With Nordstrom as presenting sponsor, the 1994 list of sponsors includes: Cohne, Rappaport & Segal/Watkiss, Dunning & Watkiss; Dee's Doll & Bear Cottage; Deloitte & Touche; First Security Bank; High Line Enterprises; Holy Cross Hospital; Holy Cross Health Care Pain Services; Howa Construction; Kennecott Corp.; Lagoon Corp., Lyon Design/Lithographics; Miller/Reagan Families; The Resort Group; Salt Lake Endoscopy Center; Pat & Debbie Shea; Smith's Food & Drug, Inc.; SW Souvall Co., Sun Plastics, Inc.; Mr. and Mrs. Von Whitby; Dr. Clayton S. Wilde; travel sponsor: Delta Airlines; media sponsor: KUTV Channel 2; print sponsor: Carr Printing of Bountiful.

Serving with Brown on the committee are: Jeannie Hansen, Debbie Harries, Katherine Henney, Tracy Lyon, Barbara Nelson, Jill Pope (National Charity League representative), Chris Redgrave-Carreon, Joey Robinson, Lesley Ruff, Jackie Seethaler, Debbie Shea, Anne Souvall, Kaye Simmonds and Holly Webster.

- THE CHILDREN'S CENTER is a treatment facility for preschool children with emotional and behavioral problems. The center is a private, nonprofit agency founded in 1962 by Dr. Agnes Plenk. The center now includes two treatment facilities: the original near the University of Utah and one in Kearns with an adjacent residential group home.

Public relations director Dimmis W. Zeigler noted societal changes that are wreaking havoc with children. "Our society has changed. It used to be grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins - several generations were around to help with children. Now we depend on daycare. Kids may have preschool in the morning and then go on to have five to 10 different caregivers in a single day. It's confusing to little children. They need consistency. Many kids are in various forms of day care up to nine and 10 hours a day," she said.

Zeigler said that many parents are unable to deal with their children because of marital problems, drug or alcohol addiction and depression. "We see a lot of single mother, one-income families with a lot of psycho-social stresses," Zeigler said.

Just because Salt Lake City has the largest clinical agency in the country serving preschool-age children, doesn't mean that the area is experiencing an unusual or unique problem. Said Zeigler, "We don't have a bigger problem, but we're doing something about the problem and have done so for 30 years. There are three factors that determine the large number of children we are seeing. First, we've had a huge population growth and second, we're better at identifying children in need. And then, kids are sicker today than just 10 years ago. There are a lot of theories why this is happening. One regarding infant bonding suggests that if children don't bond to their parents, they'll have trouble trusting in future relationships," Zeigler said.

The Children's Center has identified five traits that suggest a child needs help:

- The child who does not talk or look at you or smile when he is happy, or cry when he is hurt.

- The child who can't sit still or get involved in play.

- The child who sits alone in a world of her own and excludes parents, grandparents, siblings and peers.

- The child who has been deeply hurt.

Day treatment for children ages 2-5, after-school therapy groups for children ages 5-7 and individual parent counseling and group parenting classes are available at the center. A mother-toddler parenting group addresses problems at the very beginning. The staff includes 85 full- and part-time workers and 100 volunteers a week.

The United Way Agency serves 1,200 families each year. This year the center opened a new wing at the Eastside Center and a playground donated by volunteers from American Express. Said Zeigler, "We have paid for this new building. There is no mortgage. Our dinner-dance is the one opportunity we have to thank our sponsors, to give us the opportunity to put their names up in lights. We'll have some 550 guests attend the dinner-dance at La Caille next Thursday. All proceeds will go to our building projects and renovation and also the Kearns site expansion."

For information regarding tickets to The Children's Center benefit, call 582-5534.