Friends With Benefit

by May 13, 2024Attractions & Entertainment, Event

A locally founded nonprofit brings One Tree Hill friends and celebrities together to make a difference, and its signature fundraising event is being held May 16 to 19.

When Rae Agostino decided to watch the tearjerking, inspiring and based-on-a-true-story movie The Heart of Christmas about a little boy with cancer, she had no idea the journey she was about to embark on. Watching that movie in 2016 led to her creating a life-changing nonprofit organization.

“[When] you watch a Christmas movie, you think it’ll be exciting and filled with love,” Agostino says. “It was filled with love, but it also hit me so hard.”

The movie, about a family banding together to give their son a final early Christmas in October, also heavily spotlights St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It made me realize what St. Jude does — and I knew I had to do something to help.”

After hiring lawyers and accountants to help get her grand idea off the ground, Friends With Benefit Charity Events was born.

Friends with Benefits

Established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2017, Friends With Benefit organizes events involving celebrities to bring in donations that go toward supporting St. Jude and an array of other charities (including Dear Jack Foundation, The Girl Project, Drew League Foundation, The American Heart Association, Toys For Tots, Oceana, Safe Horizon, USO, Special Operations Transition Foundation and Everytown for Gun Safety).

While the nonprofit hosts events throughout the year, its signature annual extravaganza is what brings in the big bucks for these charities — and the big names to amp up the caliber of the event.

The executive director/founder of Friends With Benefit has been a recurring character on a TV show herself. After making the move to Wilmington from Arizona circa 2011, Agostino snagged a spot as a featured extra on the still uber-popular and locally filmed One Tree Hill series (spot her as a waitress in Karen’s Cafe throughout season nine). She also became close friends with the actor who played the well-known character Skills on the show.

One Tree Hill Benefit Fundraiser

“Antwon Tanner [aka Skills] was my neighbor when I first moved here,” Agostino says. “There were other companies doing One Tree Hill things — but he connected me with a lot of people and helped them take me seriously.”

Flash forward to the present, and Friends With Benefit’s annual event continues to bring a large chunk of the One Tree Hill cast to Wilmington to champion and support the cause. This year, find Sophia Bush, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Shantel VanSanten, Drew Seeley and Antwon Tanner (naturally) among the long list of previous cast members in attendance — with Chad Michael Murray popping in as well via livestream.

Friends with Benefits One Tree Hill

Beyond this weekend, Agostino nods to year-round tours and concerts at TRIC (the beloved nightclub from the show) to raise money for different charities, with a goal to position TRIC into a venue that can host musicians on a more weekly basis. A large championship basketball game is also in the works.

“I would love for the charity to grow and expand — possibly to another show [too],”she says.

Speaking of growing and developing, the self-starting philanthropist purchased a home in Wilmington a few years ago that she is currently flipping into a One Tree Hill-themed Airbnb — the only one in the world — with each room’s decor and vibe coming from the show (with the kitchen modeled after Karen’s Cafe and the master bedroom after Peyton’s room).

One Tree Hill Friends with Benefits

“I’ve had three sets of contractors and countless people working on this house to make it the most amazing experience for fans,” Agostino says of the upcoming accommodation slated to be ready by the end of 2024.

When Agostino is not hard at work planning events and running a thriving nonprofit, she enjoys taking Bevin Prince’s spin classes at Recess, strolling the Riverwalk, hitting the beach or hopping on a plane home to Arizona to visit family, who she credits making her dream of creating a nonprofit possible.

“I would not have been able to do this without my parents,” Agostino says. “They loaned me the money to get this started — and we’ve fought, laughed and cried.”

She notes that her parents will be making the trek to the Port City this year for the event, marking her father’s first time in the area in more than a decade.

Need another reason to attend or support the cause?

“If you are a One Tree Hill fan, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to come, feel like you’re part of the show, be around the cast and have that nostalgic feeling,” Agostino notes. “And if you aren’t a One Tree Hill fan, it’s such a cool town, a great cause to help and an exciting time to come together. It’s crazy what people can do when they are working together.”

One Tree Hill Fundraiser

Ready to make friends and benefit local charities actively making a difference? Learn more at

Want to Go?
20in23 Redemption Weekend
Friends With Benefit’s signature event May 16–19

Thursday, May 16
Your Art Matters With Craft Cabana: Guided basketball and N.C. design artist workshops
Trivia Night @ TRIC

Friday, May 17
Your Art Matters With Craft Cabana
Everyone Is Doing Great: Season 2 Screening @ TRIC
Red Bedroom Records Live Concert feat. Tyler Hilton, Jana Kramer, Kate Voegele and Michael Grubbs @ TRIC

Saturday, May 18
20in23 Redemption Basketball Game benefiting the V Foundation @ Laney High School Gymnasium
Tree Hill High Prom: When The Stars Go Blue @ Laney High School Gymnasium

Sunday, May 19
Friends With Benefit Photo & Autograph Sessions @ Laney High School Gymnasium

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