Combining celebration with activism, hundreds of people gathered to blow bubbles, sing songs and commit to take a stand for children at the Ventura County Government Center on Wednesday.
As part of Stand for Children Day, kids in Ventura County were asked to stand in unison in their classrooms at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday to focus attention on the need for increased government spending on issues affecting the young.
"I think they're the most defenseless of the population because they don't have a lot of voting power," said a bubble blowing Catalina Zaragoza, 30, a psychological social worker at the county Department of Mental Health who was taking in the event on her lunch hour.
The local event is a prelude to national Stand for Children Day, scheduled for Saturday in the nation's capital by the National Children's Defense Fund.
"Part of their purpose is to educate the government," said Kim Faulkner, lead organizer of the local event.
"They're trying to educate government officials that money needs to be spent on kids, not just technology and defense."
Between songs by the Oxnard High School Band and a children's choir, speakers that included educators and government officials urged people to invest time in the county's 175,000 children by volunteering at a local school or simply reading to their own kids.
"I was in small-claims court this morning, and I thought they were having a children's rally my son would enjoy," said Demaris Rae Bruce, 38, of Ventura, who sat with her 2-year-old watching the activities.
But "I think it's real important that people get focused on what's going on with kids today. . . . I think [the event] might do a little bit in terms of raising consciousness."