Olivia Garcia

Sunday, Dec 04 2011 04:12 PM

OLIVIA GARCIA: Nonprofit group reaches at-risk youth

By Olivia Garcia

A local nonprofit group is once again gearing up for its annual event that will treat foster care and at-risk youth with plenty of holiday love and spirit.

Presented by the Children Joining Children for Success, the fifth annual Holiday Skating Extravaganza at the Bakersfield Ice Sports Center will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 11.

The event's purpose is to share the following message with foster care and at-risk children: "If you can dream it, you can attain it."

"It will be a day dedicated to shaping the future of our children," said Bakersfield attorney H.A. Sala. He and his wife, Sylvia, are leading the efforts.

Not only will local youth get a chance to skate, enjoy a magical holiday show and attend a holiday banquet, they will be introduced to mentors -- judges, attorneys, physicians, educators and community leaders -- who will share personal stories of overcoming adversities when they were young.

Making positive choices and attaining higher education will be among the common theme of discussions, Sala said.

"Often, children in a foster home or at-risk environment do not receive mentoring, guidance or encouragement to pursue a brighter future through education," Sala said. "Many children feel abandoned and become involved in inappropriate behavior, often resulting in dropping out of school, criminality, homelessness or incarceration. The goal of Children Joining Children for Success is to encourage the children that they have the ability to affect the direction of their future."

This year's event will be attended by children from CASA, Jamison Children's Center, Trulight group home, Boys and Girls Club, Stay Focused Ministries, Stop the Violence and Ebony Counseling Center, Sala said.

The Bakersfield Condors' hockey players and the team's mascot also plan to skate with the children.

Family Fest

Local deaf children also will be celebrating the Christmas spirit when they gather for the Holiday Family Fest from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 10, at the Richardson Center in Bakersfield.

The event, which will feature holiday crafts, games and Santa (who will be using sign language), is organized by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Parent Teacher Organization.

The group serves deaf and hard-of-hearing children, from infants to eighthgraders, by providing them learning experiences outside of school time to advance their communication skills, said Denise Ornelas, president of the organization. Her daughter, Jessica, one of the sweetest, smartest seventh-graders I know, is deaf, and Denise tells me that this group is just as important to Jessica as it is to the parents. For more information, please call Ornelas at 324-1632.

Toy drive

One way you can get involved in the Holiday Family Fest for local deaf children, however, is by donating an unwrapped toy on Dec. 14. The Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is organizing a toy drive for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Parent Teacher Organization, as well as the local Society for Disabled Children. The toy collection will be held 5:30 p.m. at the Nile Theater, 1721 19th St., during KCHCC's Holiday Membership Appreciation Reception.

"No toy donation is too small," said Jay Tamsi, CEO and president of KCHCC. The reception, which is free, is for current and potential members, and will feature food by Agave Mexican Grill and Cantina, music and more. For more information, please call 633-5495.

These are the opinions of Olivia Garcia, not necessarily The Bakersfield Californian.

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