A popular and highly anticipated annual holiday party at the home of entrepreneur Richard A. Auhll was held Dec. 17 with proceeds benefiting the Santa Barbara Police Activities League (SBPAL).

“I have friends involved with PAL and I’ve been involved with a number of other nonprofits doing good work here in Santa Barbara for decades, and these parties have helped to benefit those organizations,” said Auhll, a former aerospace engineer, retired chairman of Circon Corp. and UCSB benefactor.

SBPAL provides educational, constructive and free programs to the youth of our community, including the new TWELVE35 Teen Center, 1235 Chapala St., which serves 30 to 40 students a day with tutors, computers and games.

“We just started a new girls program at TWELVE35 Teen Center that’s only for girls with a special girls room, Girl Empowerment,” said Laurie Parker, SBPAL executive director. “And we’re going to do special workshops there, too.”

Shuttles greeted partygoers at an SBCC campus parking lot for a windy ride up the hill to Auhll’s home, which has a spectacular 270-degree view from the Santa Barbara Harbor to the mountains.

At the door, guests were met by Auhll and other SBPAL representatives for a handshake welcome. They then entered into a living space with a warm, crackling fireplace and a table stacked with delicious appetizers.

Auhll holds a variety of distinguished degrees, including a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard University. During Auhll’s tenure as founder, president and chairman of Goleta-based Circon, the company was the largest U.S. producer of medical endoscopes and color video systems for minimally invasive surgery.

Outside of the multilevel Miramonte Drive home, guests gathered near a large pool to take advantage of the clear night and soak in the beautiful views.

And throughout the night, many partygoers took turns dancing inside a transparent tent to live music from The Rave. All of the evening’s guests appreciated the chance to assist local youth in the community.

“Richard has many charitable events that he connects to the parties, which is wonderful and a win-win situation,” said Santa Barbara resident Monica Mitchell.

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.

More than 700 youths participated last year in SBPAL-sponsored after-school sports leagues, in which both boys and girls played basketball, flag football and soccer with uniforms, sports equipment and transportation supplied for all participants.

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.

“PAL’s important because there’s around 500 gang members here in Santa Barbara and PAL offers an alternative for the kids,” said Auhll. “So we try to catch them before the gangs do and let them know that the cops are good guys.”

SBPAL programs serve all four junior high school campuses in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, with additional programs such as Youth Leadership Council to engage youths in the community, Campership Alliance with nearly 50 local summer camps, art classes and Explorer Post, where high school age youth integrate with Santa Barbara Police Department.

Today, SBPAL works together with SBPD, 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. 

Additional upcoming PAL events include the Putting Kids First Annual Fundraiser on April 27.

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara Police Activities League, or call 805.962.5560. Connect with SBPAL on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.