Corona del Mar Today: Newport mayor reads to kids

Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner read to a group of about 20 toddlers, preschoolers and babies Wednesday morning at the Corona del Mar library branch as part of a celebration of National Library Week.

She discussed favorite animals and the importance of wearing rain boots before jumping in mud puddles with the children, who called out answers and appeared entirely engaged in the conversation.

Gardner then read three books, including "Homer the Library Cat" and sang several songs with the children, including the ABC song and the Hokey Pokey.

The mayor traditionally reads during National Library Week at the Central Library, but Gardner is a Corona del Mar resident who has been credited for saving the branch from closure and opted to return to the branch on Marigold Avenue this year.

"What's not to love about reading stories," Gardner said after the half-hour story time event. "I really enjoy the interaction with the children, watching them laugh, sing and enjoy the stories."

National Library Week takes place every April to honor the contributions of our nation's libraries, to promote library use, library officials said.


BID offers financial help for traffic study

The Corona del Mar Business Improvement District is willing to help pay for a traffic study of the impact of moving the squeeze lane at East Coast Highway and MacArthur Boulevard, and the group's chairman this week urged the City Council to allow that study to go forward quickly.

"We'd like to expedite it and not wait until July or August," said BID Chairman Bernie Svalstad, who has been involved in the entryway beautification plans since they began in the late 1990s. "The BID is willing to participate financially on that. Maybe that channelization will or will not work, but it's important to know. That's pretty important."

The entryway plan would remove a third lane, converting the extra space to expanded sidewalks and landscape upgrades. The council agreed in February to consider the entryway project for its next fiscal budget, but those discussions won't take place for a month or two.

The project would cost $1.2 million, but the traffic study would cost about $25,000 to $30,000, city staff said. The traffic study would involve cones and paints to simulate the lane change, as well as the relocation of nine East Coast Highway parking spaces that will be lost if the project moves forward.

Newport Beach resident Ron Hendrickson spoke at the council study session meeting Tuesday, expressing concern that Corona del Mar residents don't understand the project and its implications on sidewalks and traffic flow.

"I'm still hopeful that we're going to get the public involved because I don't think the public really understands what is proposed to happen there," he said.

The topic will be discussed at the Town Hall meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sherman Library & Gardens.


UPS driver returns to work after cancer fight

After seven months and three surgeries, UPS driver and cancer survivor Athena Lewis is back to working her Corona del Mar routes.

"I am good to go," she said. "I'm just not used to the moving, so my legs are killing me, but eventually I'll get faster. I just want everyone to know that I'm back, I'm healthy and I'm blessed."

Lewis said that her first day back to work was April 5 and that she began driving her Corona del Mar routes the next day, going a little more slowly than usual and taking time to greet residents who are welcoming her back.

In August 2010, Lewis was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after a lumpectomy, she and doctors decided that more surgery was needed to aggressively fight the cancer. She worked until Oct. 3, and in November underwent a double mastectomy at Hoag Hospital. Her third surgery in February was reconstructive.

Lewis, who said she did not have chemotherapy or radiation, is completely cancer free and says she feels and looks better than ever.

"I am so happy right now," she said. "Aren't I so blessed? So many people have stopped me to say hello. I've had such a wonderful greeting. It's been great."


Harbor View carnival raises ASPCA funds

Harbor View Elementary School student volunteers staged a charity carnival for younger classmates April 6 as the grand finale of a month of Team Kids philanthropic activities.

"Children want to matter," said Julie Hudash, founder and chief executive of Team Kids, an Orange County-based organization that empowers children to help others. "Often they think they are too little or too small or not strong enough. Team Kids says, 'You are strong enough — you matter.'"

For a month, about 80 Harbor View student team leaders organized weekly drives — collecting food, toys, clothes, books and recyclables. The carnival, which included games, booths and food, was entirely created by students for the entire student body.

Ashley Salem, Jordyn DeVeer and Maddie Seybold, all fourth-graders, said they wanted to create a game with an animal theme to match the carnival's charity recipient, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"We tried to find a cute game all about animals," Ashley said. "And we said, 'How about raccoons?' And everyone loved it because they are so cute."

At first, the girls wanted to dress like raccoons and have students buy tickets for a chance to throw soaking wet sponges at them. In the end, they dressed up like raccoons and had students take turns throwing sponges at cardboard tombstones decorated with the raccoons.

Other students created ring tosses with soda bottles, obstacle courses, a cakewalk, a casino table, a piñata race and stations to get hair sprayed colors, and nails and faces painted.

"The boys like the jumping and contact sports and the girls like the nails and the hair," said kindergarten teacher Michele Creason.

The Harbor View carnival also was the first appearance for Team Kids' new bus, a mascot with its own Facebook page. The vintage school bus soon will be covered with Team Kids logos and will make appearances at Team Kids functions with a slogan of "Get on the Bus," Hudash said.

"Get on the bus means get on the bus and show how powerful kids are," she told the students after the event. "You are awesome!"

"Four weeks of fundraising culminating in one of the most positive, energetic, decent ways to have fun — children here are contributing to society," Principal Charlene Metoyer said.

The hard work was worth it, students said.

"We are having so much fun," Ashley said.

"We're all having a blast," said Paris Paz, a fourth-grader.

Twitter: @coroandelmartdy

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