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Two Helena nonprofits will share $16,878 after a first-ever charity piano duel.

The Lewis and Clark Humane Society raised $9,856, and the Prickly Pear Land Trust raised $7,021 at the “Dueling Pianos” fundraiser in January. The two nonprofits competed against each other, using song requests and tips for performances not just by the two piano players but also from audience members who were called onstage by their friends’ nominations.

The Phoenix piano band, “176 Keys,” provided the music for the event, which was sponsored by the Helena Hampton Inn and the Marriott Residence Inn. The piano players raised more than $2,500 just in song requests.

“Three-hour shows can sometimes drag in the final 20 minutes,” said Sam Ferguson, one of the piano players. “This was an exception in which it seemed like we ran out of time. It's all due to the terrific audience participation and the attitude of the people in the audience from Helena.”

Representatives of both charities said they appreciate the turnout and enthusiasm from the crowd.

“We are so grateful to the Marriott Residence Inn and Hampton Inn hotels for their brilliant idea and hosting what turned out to be a very fun, sold-out event,” said Gina Wiest, executive director of the Humane Society. “The money raised on the 26th will go to help care for 2,000 homeless animals, and assure they find wonderful homes.”

Kelli Butenko of Prickly Pear Land Trust said the evening was “crazy” fun.

“The room was packed and the crowd was ready to laugh, dance, and sing the night away,” she said. “A special thanks to those who checked their embarrassment at the door and got up on stage to perform on our behalf.”

Jena Sabatini, owner of the inns, said they’ve already scheduled a dueling piano event for Jan. 25, 2014, based on this event’s success.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout and money raised for this first time event,” Sabatini said. “ … We have decided to make this an annual event and have invited back both Prickly Pear Land Trust and the Lewis and Clark Humane Society for the second year.”

Additional information can be found on the Dueling Fun Pianos Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DuelingFunPianos.

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