Day of fun for disadvantaged

Children from north Orange County spent much of their Tuesday morning squeezing clay and bending pipe cleaners to form pairs of glasses — and also learned a few tidbits of financial know-how.

About 60 underprivileged kids from Santa Ana, Stanton and Anaheim assembled at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach for a combination of art activities and a lecture on money from sponsor Wells Fargo.

Fifty children from the Illumination Foundation and 10 from KidWorks first listened to Mavel Becerra, Wells Fargo's financial educator, talk about the difference between "wants" and "needs" and the importance of saving.

Kids drew inside a picture of a safe what they would like to save.

Clara Oyolo, 8, drew a chicken, pear and water bottle.

"It's good food," Oyolo said.

Festival artists Stephanie Cunningham and Betty Haight then told the children what it's like being an artist.

Haight used oils on a canvas to paint festival marketing director Sharbie Higuchi, who stood still nearby.

"We work together," said Cunningham, who taught art at Orange High School for 34 years. "Betty paints figures [Cunningham paints landscapes] and we place two canvases alongside one another to create a duet. If you paint from your heart and what you feel, it's very rewarding."

The kids dispersed to different stations, which included separate jewelry and printmaking areas.

Sherri McEuen, bronze sculpture exhibitor at the festival, oversaw students working with soft clay.

They sat in chairs along rectangular tables, a variety of clay colors before them.

"I asked them to choose their favorite color and make small characters, such as flowers," McEuen said. "That's to get them started and help them figure out what to make."

McEuen noted 7-year-old Andrew Cervantes, who rolled a piece of green clay into an elongated tube.

"I wanted to make a snake just for fun," Cervantes said of his creation, which included tiny bright orange strips representing the stripes on the snake.

The 50 children from Illumination Foundation, founded in 2007 to provide immediate care and relief for the county's homeless, are in the middle of a weeklong camp involving visits to places throughout Orange County.

Wednesday they visited the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

The festival provided a place where the children, some of whom live in motels, could use art to express themselves, said Rose Wolfrum, Illumination Foundation child family advocate.

"A lot of the children come from impoverished backgrounds, so we want to make [art] a positive outlet for any adversity they may face," Wolfrum said.

The organization is nearly ready to open its children's resource center, which will offer a wealth of services, including parenting and speech-and-language classes, homework help, even yoga, Wolfrum said.

Ten children from Santa Ana-based KidWorks joined the children from Illumination Foundation. KidWorks provides weekly programs for 800 children and adults focusing on learning, health and fitness, college and career readiness, and spiritual leadership, according to its website.

"This gets them to explore," KidWorks Director Jessica Ellis said. "They live in at-risk neighborhoods, and parents aren't always able to bring them to places like this."

Nancy Cervantes, 13, wearing two bracelets she made at the jewelry station, pushed her pencil into a thin Styrofoam sheet to draw petals inside a heart.

Once the pattern was made, children took their Styrofoam sheets to a volunteer, who painted over the mold to reveal the desired shape.

Another volunteer placed the sheet into a printing press, where children cranked a handle to turn a steel wheel.

The wheel rolled over the Styrofoam sheet, creating enough pressure so the wet paint could stick onto a sheet of paper.

Jadeline Lopez, 12, waited for her finished print to emerge from the press.

"I drew a flower, mountain and stars," Lopez said. "You let your imagination go."

To learn more about Illumination Foundation and KidWorks, visit the organization's websites at ifhomeless.org and kidworksonline.org.

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