An evening of “Putting Kids First!” hosted by the Santa Barbara Police Activities League at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum brought together youth leaders and law enforcement under the courtyard stars for a benefit to raise awareness and funding for local programs important to the enrichment of local children.
The message of helping youth was foremost at the ninth annual fundraiser April 30, but it was also a moment of reflection for guests entering the museum as the flagpole waved a flag at half-staff in honor of the late executive director David Bisol, with fond remembrances of his service to the community shared by many of those in attendance. Bisol died April 21 at age 60 of injuries from a bad fall.
Youth Leadership Council member Yolanda Gonzalez began the program as emcee and introduced PAL board president Douglas Dreier, who spoke of the successes in music, photography, knitting and constant tutoring at the Teen Center, and shared the moment with Police Chief Cam Sanchez for more positive messages on assisting local youths.
“We are very honored to have such great community support for the kids of Santa Barbara,” Sanchez said. “So many of our kids, despite peer pressure and other distractions, still continue to do great things for their community and family. They do this by actively participating in our PAL programs, and by using this great opportunity to become a part of a lifelong partnership with so many other kids that they will be a part of for the rest of their lives.”
Dreier also encouraged the crowd in appreciation of PAL’s new executive director, Laurie Parker, who preceded a performance by Dahlia Khan and a presentation of the Founder’s Award by Ginni Dreier to Officer Kent Wojciechoski.
Next, the honorees of the evening, Stina Hans and Melissa Gough, were introduced as guests enjoyed a delicious starter of chanterelle goat cheese tamale and Anaheim chile relleno with charred tomato sauce and crispy tortilla salad.
Hans, who is serving as the 2012 chairwoman of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, co-chairwoman of the Girls Inc. 100 Committee luncheon and serves on the Girls Incorporated of Greater Santa Barbara board, started working with teens and young adults during her time at UCLA, where she was an educational services consultant and undergraduate admissions reader.
Gough, a Santa Barbara resident since 1968, is a longtime committee member of PAL, United Boys & Girls Club supporter, Women’s Fund member and serves on the UCSB Planned Giving Council.
Following these dedicated supporters, a dinner of New York strip loin with twice-baked fingerling potatoes, and a cracker pepper-syrah jus with a touch of cream was served with an option of pan-roasted Alaskan halibut on whipped golden potatoes.
Later, guest speaker and PAL parent Rochelle Johnson, who shared the evening with her youngest son’s father, stepped to the stage and shared her story as a proud single mother with four children — Joshua, 15, Emily, 14, Kaleb, 12, and Solomon, 3 — and the gratitude and involvement that the children experience in PAL’s programs.
“Because I am a single parent, most of my time is spent making sure the children’s provisions are met,” Johnson said. “So though ideal and needed, extracurricular activities have been on the back burner. PAL’s campership has allowed my children to grow in areas I would have never been able to introduce them to due to my schedule.”
The numerous activities that the children are involved with include cherished and favorite moments for each of the kids.
Kaleb enjoys paddle boarding and witnessed a special moment while doing the activity, when “not only did he paddle board but he saw dolphins under his board while he learned, and Kaleb loves dolphins,” Johnson shared with Noozhawk.
Meanwhile, daughter Emily learned a new sport but also built a strong friendship, and Johnson mentioned how “she now has a friend who lives in Japan and they Facebook each other, and will be sailing together this summer when her friend returns from Japan.”
Her son, Joshua, has become so enamored with flight that he’s now started taking flight lessons with plans to make a career as a pilot.
And now that son Solomon is old enough, he will be going to Campers Zoo as part of the Campership Alliance program. The Campership Alliance provides opportunities to participate in local summer camps for qualified participants from low-income families in Goleta, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria.
Some of the various fun and creative camp opportunities include Art of Nature and Fly! from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History as well as Zoo Camp, Teen Adventure Camp from the Santa Barbara Family YMCA, and confidence and independence are gained manning one-person Optimist sailboats through the Santa Barbara Youth Sailing Foundation.
Programs run throughout the summer to create unique moments and life-building exercises for youths and magical moments for parents to share in the joy.
“I could not have made these wonderful experiences happen if it was not for PAL,” Johnson said. “Thanks, PAL!”
Next, Youth Leadership Council graduate Judith Lugo shared some words with the crowd, and a live auction with fellow YLC grads Yolanda Gonzalez and Miguel Jasso included a variety of unique event-themed bids, including CSI: Santa Barbara and K-9 Bomb Squad, plus a $10,000 Bryant & Sons shopping spree and a 50-person Channel Cat cruise.
CSI: Santa Barbara joins Chef Jason Banks and CSI Mike Ullemeyer with eight guests for a dinner prepared and served with details on a local homicide and collection techniques.
K-9 Bomb Squad provides guests with access to view an exclusive Police Department K-9 team training to witness searches, drug detection and the attack of a K-9 chasing down a fleeing suspect.
Later, some closing words from Wojciechoski were shared with the crowd as a tempting desert was served to cap a fine meal catered by New West Catering, with a warm molten-center chocolate soufflé cake with mini espresso ice cream sandwich and cappuccino crème brulee tart.
As the evening progressed into the night, DJ Kevin Flores from YLC was spinning some tunes to get the crowd dancing to the spirit of the event.
PAL started in 1914 in New York City when police officers recognized that children were unable to find safe places to play sports in crowded cities. The movement gradually spread across the country, and SBPAL was established in 1999.
The goal of SBPAL is to close the achievement gap in South Coast public schools, where 84 percent of PAL participants are below the poverty line. The program provides a bridge between youth and local law enforcement agencies to create a safe community.
SBPAL provides educational, constructive and free programs to the youth of the community serving all four junior high school campuses in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, including the new TWELVE35 Teen Center, at 1235 Chapala St., which serves 30 to 40 students a day with tutors, computers and games.
Today, SBPAL works with the Santa Barbara Police Department, the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department and the Santa Barbara County Education Office to continue the goal of creating a healthy space for children’s learning in the afternoon hours.
SBPAL graciously thanks the “Putting Kids First!” sponsors for supporting local youth:
» Leaders: Patty and Bob Bryant, Ginni and Chad Dreir, Melissa and Ralph Iannelli, and Peter Hilf and Dana Mazzetti
» Friends: Anonymous, Richard Auhll, Brophy Bros. and Lee Luria
» Buddies: Classic Party Rentals, Franzen and Franzen, Stina Hans and Joel Kreiner, I.D.O. Events Inc., Merrill Lynch, Montecito Bank & Trust, Philip Tricia Pennestri, Rusty’s Pizza and Tri-County Produce Company
» Patrons: Bank of America, Margo and Jeff Barbakow, Case Detective Agency, Susan and Jeff Davidson, Linda and Dr. Donald Fareed, Maria and Joe Fazio, Dolly and Andy Granatelli, Mary Ellen and Dan McCammon, and Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.