Girl’s Death Enables Dream of Hangout for Friends
Dayna’s Place, where mountain teen-agers go to dance, talk, watch movies, play games or just hang out, was born from a teen-age girl’s dream for a “clean, safe place” for her friends to gather.
Ironically, it was Dayna King’s death in an auto accident and $13,000 from a memorial fund that made her dream a reality.
Dayna was thrown through the windshield and killed when her car crashed off a Sierra Nevada road on Sept. 12, 1984, as she returned home to Bass Lake from a Fresno hospital where her mother had undergone a double mastectomy.
“She was . . . really aware that there was no place for kids to go,” Dayna’s mother, Barbara, said one recent Friday night as she made a banana split in the upstairs snack bar. “She would say ‘I wish there was someplace to go and just hang out. It shouldn’t be just a Christian place either. . . . A lot of my friends don’t drink or smoke, but they don’t want to go to a church meeting either.’ ”
Mrs. King said she agreed that someone should start a teen center, but “I never dreamed it would be Allan and I.”
The Kings, who operate a printing house that publishes nondenominational materials in Spanish for vacation Bible and Sunday schools, began making plans for Dayna’s Place a week after her funeral.
They leased a two-story structure, and with the help of volunteer plumbers, carpenters and others from the community, opened Dayna’s Place on Dec. 27, 1984.
“We had 175 kids here that first New Year’s Eve,” Allan King said. “We kicked them out at 2 a.m., but this year we stayed open all night and served them breakfast.
Youths Ask Advice
“We love these kids. They all call us Mom and Pop. They tell us their troubles and come to us for counsel and comfort.”
“For many,” his wife added, “this is a home away from home.”
Inside the rambling structure, which is open weekend evenings, are two pool tables, more than a dozen video games, a dance floor and disc jockey’s booth, a snack bar, a movie room and a game or conversation room. A color portrait of Dayna hangs on the wall opposite the entrance.
Seven teen-agers and seven adults serve on a board that sets rules.
“We don’t have any trouble,” said Allan King. “The kids police themselves and each other.”
The teen-agers feel the Kings understand them.
“Kids here know they can talk to them and it’s confidential, kind of like a neighborhood Dear Abby,” said Anita Johnson, 17, Yosemite High’s student body vice president.
“You know what they do? They watch the school papers and they call kids who’ve done something special or won an award. And they write to kids who have left here and gone off to college or the Army.
“Allan and Barbara would do anything for any kid in this community,” Anita said. “But, this place--and all the work it takes--this they are doing for Dayna.”