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I went to two parties one weekend that were for good causes. The first was a luncheon for the volunteers of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization I volunteer with. It was at the Officers' Club on the Miramar base. Volunteers work in many capacities for Make-A-Wish. It's not just taking a child to meet Tony Gwynn or on a trip to Disneyland. Some volunteers pick up families at the airport, others do speaking engagements to raise money, and others get services from companies.

The one thing that always tears me up is hearing about a child who passed away. It's great to hear the family talk about how their child's desire to meet Garth Brooks was all he talked about for the final six months of his life, but the thought of a family being able to go on after losing a child is hard to think about.

The party had a magic theme, with the phrase "Volunteers have the magic touch" written on invitations. So, instead of flowers on each table, there was a top hat with a rabbit and wand. I had suggested we call one of the Indian casinos to donate decks of cards. I thought it would be great to have a magician walk around to the tables performing tricks. Last year, they had a slide show, and you could see people's eyes glazing over.

I called Jeff Marcus of Alakazam Magic. When someone asked him what "alakazam" meant, he said, "It means I'm first in the phone book."

He lowered his rate significantly to perform for us, and he was amazing. He'd go up to tables doing tricks, and at my table, after he was done, he said he wanted to give me a gift. I opened an envelope and found a watch. Without realizing what was going on, I said, "I have a watch just like this." It was, in fact, my watch. The entire table spent the next half hour trying to figure out how he got it off my arm without my feeling anything. One guy said, "The nervous system can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If you have a sprained ankle and get a pain in your stomach, you don't feel pain in both places." That may be true, but it didn't help me figure out the trick. There was no pain when it happened, just a simple handshake, and that involved my right arm, not my left.

The little magic tricks that were placed on our table weren't as fun after seeing a professional make things disappear. We spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to make a penny disappear by reading instructions written on a two-inch piece of paper.

The Schneider family spoke at the event. Their son had a heart transplant at age one. He's around eight now and wants to be an Army Ranger. CBS News had done a special on him, which was shown for the crowd, and then the family spoke. We saw this child in his Army uniform and listened to him talk about rappelling down a 30-foot area and sitting in a Black Hawk helicopter.

After we ate our swordfish and macadamia-crusted chicken, Jeff went up to do some more magic. He talked about Make-A-Wish being a great organization, and said he's involved with Big Brothers. "That means once a week, an 85-year-old guy comes over and takes me out to lunch."

He had some great jokes, which were even funnier when they were explained to the older lady sitting at the table next to me. When a waitress walked by as he was talking, he said, "She's just going through a stage."

He grabbed an older man from the audience to perform tricks with. The guy wasn't able to get rings apart that Jeff could separate with ease. After about five minutes with the guy, Jeff said "I'll give you a pin for helping out." He handed the guy a pin as the guy walked back to his seat. Jeff called for the guy, and he said, "I'm done. I'm sitting down. Get another volunteer." Jeff laughed and said, "I just want to give you something." The guy said, "No, no, I don't want anything else." Jeff then held up a watch, which the guy said he didn't want. Jeff had to explain, "Sir, it's your watch." Everyone laughed as he handed it back to the volunteer. I said to someone at my table, "I wish he would've taken my cheap watch and exchanged it with that one."

I asked Jeff as he was leaving about the guy not wanting to continue. He told me he once asked for a woman to volunteer and she said no. Then he asked another person, and they said no. He said, "It continued like that for two or three minutes, which seems like an eternity when you're up there performing."

He told me about a female volunteer he had once. He has this device that slices carrots and other things, and he does a fake sales pitch for the item. He gets a woman from the crowd, puts her arm in the device, and it cuts up everything but her arm. With this woman, when he put her arm inside, she started screaming, saying she had a fear of knives. She then ran back to her seat with the contraption still dangling from her arm. Jeff continued, "I had to talk her into coming back on stage just so I could take the thing off her."

I left the event before asking if they needed my help cleaning up. I felt guilty, since I spent half an hour before the event taping decks of cards all over the walls.

The next party was in Point Loma at the Rosecroft house. It was built in 1912 and looks like the White House (minus the columns) in an Italian Renaissance style. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Scott and Mary Clifton own the house and they let charities use it. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were once here during a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser, and Ronald Reagan stood on the steps here when he announced his first candidacy for governor.

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