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Month-long Festival of Children begins Friday at South Coast Plaza

A month of activities, performances and charity outreach kicks off Friday with the start of the annual Festival of Children at South Coast Plaza.

The event, in its 15th year, will be held at the Costa Mesa mall on weekends through September.

"The festival offers over 75 children's charities a free opportunity to educate the community about the important work they are doing, conduct donor outreach, recruit volunteers and seek collaborative opportunities with like-minded organizations and individuals," Jennifer Gordon, director of marketing and corporate communications for the Festival of Children Foundation, wrote in an email.

The foundation is a nonprofit that supports charities, companies and individuals working to improve the lives of children.

"It is up to each and every one of us to work to make the world a better place for our children," foundation founder Sandy Segerstrom Daniels said in a statement.

The festival — which this year is themed "Love in Any Language" — is central to the foundation's goal of raising awareness for member charities, Gordonsaid.

Exposure is a key component of that. About 2 million people are expected to visit South Coast Plaza during the festival's run, organizers said.

The festival is held in conjunction with National Child Awareness Month, another effort led by the Festival of Children Foundation to focus attention on issues facing children.

Many events are planned throughout the festival, including musical performances, face painting, magic shows, activities with Legos and a back-to-school fashion show.

Guests also will be able to feast their eyes on "Canstruction OC," a series of 13 structures made entirely of canned goods.

Once the festival is over, those cans, more than 60,000 in all, will be donated to the Orange County Food Bank.

Charity booths will be set up in the Sears and Bloomingdale's wings of the mall, while performances and other activities will take place in Carousel Court and Jewel Court on Saturdays and Sundays, largely between noon and 4 p.m.

Events planned for the first weekend of the festival include a "Coffee, Tea, Mommy and Me" discussion about child passenger safety — 11 a.m. Friday in Carousel Court — and demonstrations and shows on Saturday and Sunday from groups such as the Anaheim Ballet, Arts and Learning Conservatory, Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Dance and South Coast Martial Arts.

The festival's opening ceremonies will be at noon Saturday in Carousel Court.

All events are free and open to the public.

For a full schedule of festival events or for more information, visit festivalofchildren.org.

luke.money@latimes.com

Twitter: @LukeMMoney

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