10th Annual Day of the Child
It may have been windy, but that did not ruin the 10th Annual Day of the Child which was celebrated at Santa Monica Pier on Sunday. Hundreds of at-risk and foster youth had a day of play as they enjoyed the rides at Pacific Park, ate foods ranging from ice cream to hot dogs, joined dance contests, crafts and finger-painting and enjoyed gifts from all of the sponsors who donated items for this event.
This event was started by Children Uniting Nations, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality mentoring relations for atrisk and foster youth. Daphna Ziman, chairperson and founder of CUN and organizer of the event, did not have a moment to spare as she ensured that the children enjoyed themselves on the happy day, but she did take some time to speak about the event and addressed the process of becoming a volunteer or mentor. "Today is amazing.
The way someone can be a volunteer is that they can go to childrenunitingnations. org and they can sign up, and also they can call the office which is 310-203-0500," Ziman said. "And, you know, it really matters that everybody starts thinking about how to reach to one child and how to change the world one child at a time." She also gave an example by talking about the recent presidential election. "You know, if there is something that we have learned from this last election it's that 'yes we can,' so today there is proof that many thousand people are reaching out and becoming heroes in our community and changing our future and the future of the children that need it most," Ziman said. As stated on CUN's website, there are three ways to be a mentor. A volunteer can be a relationship-based mentor requiring a commitment of one year and two days per month of participating in community activities and one-on-one outings in the community in order to build a strong, healthy bond with the child. Another choice is to be an academic mentor requiring a one-year commitment of two to three hours a week consisting of activities designed to help a child's academic achievement through tutoring and educational games.
In the last choice, special-events mentoring, a volunteer spends time with a child at a single event sponsored by CUN, such as Day of the Child or Dodger Day, with no further commitment required. According to the guidelines, a mentor must be 18 years or older for the academic mentoring, 21 years or older for the relationship based mentoring, go through a criminal background check, attend training and orientation, have a valid driver's license, and have a caring heart.
These programs are partnered with Mentoring Partnership for Los Angeles Youth.Many celebrities, having been past mentors and volunteers, attended the event. Fox 11 News anchor Christine Devine emceed the event, introducing acts on the talent stage such as "Power of 3," "Girl's Crush," and "Savvy & Mandy." American Idol contestant Lisa Tucker and actresses Bai Ling and Maria Conchita Alonso walked the red carpet and former Bond girl, Dr. Quinn medicine woman, and recent "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Jane Seymour was glad to be at the event and what it stands for. "The reason I support Children Uniting Nations is because the foster care system is a really tough organization. [...] I think the best thing we need to do to foster kids, if you can't adopt them, is to mentor them, so that's why [today] is a very important day, and that's why I always come to the Day of the Child," Seymour said.Of course, not all volunteers and mentors are celebrities, some of the unsung heroes were there since six in the morning working to make the day of the child memorable.
Mara Epstein Saiziner is one of those unsung heroes, who has been volunteering for the organization this year and found out about it online. "I do a lot of volunteer work and I went to 'Craig's List' and saw this charity and this event and thought they could use another pair of hands and here I am today" Saiziner said.
"I will definitely come back next year, it is a greatevent and it's just getting up at six a.m. on my day off but it is soworth the smiles and the love that you see here on the pier today," Saiziner said. So as the children got their free toys and care packages, which included books and educational materials, ate the array of foods and enjoyed the bumper cars and Ferris wheel, it was a fun filled day that brought a little joy in these children's lives.