A festive 10th birthday

Sandy Segerstrom Daniels' passion for helping children began when she was a child herself.

Her first time helping a children's organization came when her eighth-grade teacher offered the opportunity to the class as a means of receiving extra credit. Daniels volunteered in the tryouts for the Special Olympics.

While she continued to be involved with children's charities and causes over the years, the idea of forming the Festival of Children Foundation came out of a frustrating time in her life.

Daniels was busy with her ill mother when she received two invitations to two different children's charities' events that were scheduled within a week of each other.

"I thought, 'Why can't charities learn to work together?'" she said.

Ten years later, the foundation has become the arm that connects children's charities together to help them capitalize on their resources and expand their reach.

"We're the mother ship," Daniels said. "We connect charities with corporations."

The 10th anniversary celebration is scheduled to take place throughout September at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Live music, dance performances, arts and crafts, animal shows and face painting are just among the various activities taking place on the weekends.

A back-to-school fashion show is set to showcase participating retailers at 11:30 a.m. at the Carousel Court and 12:30 p.m. at the Jewel Court on Sept. 4. The foundation is using local children as models, but not from agencies, Daniels said.

With 450 organizations throughout the nation and growing, the Festival of Children Foundation works with corporations to provide charities with better deals on a variety of needed programs, find marketing tools and even make it easier for businesses to give back by acting as a one-stop shop where businesses can connect to the right organizations.

A Huntington Beach youth development organization, El Viento Foundation, benefits greatly from being part of the Festival of Children, said Zayda Garcia, the group's chief operations officer.

Not only did El Viento receive a grant from the Festival of Children, but the exposure it received had a great impact on what El Viento does, she said.

"The exposure to the larger community was wonderful for the program," Garcia said. "We got a chance to tell Orange County what it is that we do here."

Daniels has also worked with the U.S. Senate to bring more awareness to children's charities and has, for the fourth year, been successful at getting them to declare September as National Child Awareness Month.

"It's like living in a fog because it's a dream come true," she said. "How many people can really say that? I've been very fortunate."

By recognizing September as National Child Awareness Month, Daniels hopes to bring awareness to children's charities nationwide and focus on four principles: nurturing children, encouraging them to give back, helping a child's cause and joining forces with those helping children.

Daniels said changing even one child's life would make all of her efforts worth it.

"I think of what my parents did for me and what I'm able to do for others now, because I had that example," she said.

For more information and a schedule of activities, go to http://www.festivalofchildren.org.

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