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The Pro Bono Project seeks to provide free lawyers for needy kids.

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The Pro Bono Project, a five-parish legal aid service for the poor, is trying to save its special Children's Law Program from a $50,000 deficit. Organizers of the project's 16th annual "Justice for All Ball" fundraiser hope that this week's gala event will help the program continue to provide free lawyers for needy New Orleans children.

"We represent children in the juvenile justice system that have been victims of child abuse and neglect, or who have become wards of the state," says Rachael Piercey, executive director of The Pro Bono Project. "As funds allow, we can expand the Children's Law Program, but currently we are limited to just Orleans."

This year, promoters hope the ball will raise a total of $150,000 -- up from $110,000 last year -- for all Pro Bono services, including civil litigation on behalf of the rural and suburban poor. (Criminal cases are referred to indigent defenders.) Based in New Orleans, The Project now also serves Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Washington parishes. Despite its daunting mission, Piercey promises The Project's annual ball will be a traditional New Orleans party with a purpose. "There will be no speeches on the podium," she stresses. "It's a party for a good cause."

The ball runs from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sept. 10, at Gallier Hall with music by The Iguanas and Camino Real. Food is provided by a number of renowned restaurants, including Galatoire's and Emeril's. More information is available at www.probono-no.org or by calling 581-4043.

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