Two stories this week highlighted some great efforts being made in Huntington Beach on behalf of kids, and by kids themselves.
We start by going back to 1991 San Diego. You may remember the tragic case of Leticia Hernandez, the Oceanside youngster who was kidnapped in 1989 during Christmastime. Her disappearance struck a sympathetic chord nationwide, and millions were shocked and saddened when her remains were discovered near the Pala Indian Reservation.
From the loss, though, sprung hope in the form of a program called KinderVision, a national child safety education program dedicated to the protection of children from abduction and sexual exploitation.
The idea was the brainchild of a marketing executive in the area, Doug Sebastian.
"There were just hardly any records kept on crimes like this back then," he told me. "There were actually tighter records kept on stolen cars than there were [for] missing children. And then-President Reagan became the person to really get things going in terms of focus and momentum to help combat the problem and so that made it easier for us to establish our program."
Sebastian also credits late Angels owner Gene Autry for his strong support and commitment to helping the cause gain traction.
"Thanks to Golden West Broadcasting, Mr. Autry's company, we were really able to get the word out there," he said.
Developed with the assistance of law enforcement and other experts, KinderVision started developing free educational videos (and other materials) that were designed to be an ongoing resource for families, schools, law enforcement and youth-serving organizations to teach children how to be safe and avoid sexual predators.
The idea took off throughout Southern California, and then a connection through Major League Baseball helped put KinderVision on the map.
"MLB totally understood the connection to kids, and so they became a wonderful partner in helping us drive our mission of protecting children, teens and young adults from sexual exploitation and abduction," Sebastian said.
The reason I include the story of this vital organization today is that on Monday, KinderVision will start a long-term relationship with our city by holding one of its MLB spectacular charity golf tournaments at SeaCliff Country Club.
"The event will help us start some grass roots in Orange County, and our plan is to have this charity event here each year in Huntington Beach," Sebastian said.
Taking part will be many former star athletes, including MLB Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Rollie Fingers, who told me about his involvement with KinderVision.
"Being one of their spokesmen is a great honor for me," Fingers said from his home in Nevada. "The work Doug and his team do is extremely worthwhile."
If you'd like to be a part of the event, the details are at www.kindervision.org. All golfers are guaranteed a spot in a foursome with at least one Major League legend, and for those who don't golf, there's a banquet in the evening with all the players that features a great sports memorabilia silent auction as well.
"And every attendee that night gets a baseball they can get signed by everyone," Sebastian added.
I mentioned a second event, this one held by children themselves, and it took place May 28 at Harbour View Elementary School.
I'd received a note from Kris Takasuka that Girl Scout Troop 778 was holding a "Locks of Love" event, with more than 30 girls (and one mom!) donating their hair to the organization that creates wigs for kids who have lost hair due to medical treatments.
Salon Cache and Mane Moves & Body Works were on hand to do the cutting, and school Principal Cindy Osterhout emceed as the entire school turned out to watch. Osterhout is a tireless advocate for setting positive examples for her students, and in typical fashion, the event was patriotic, uplifting and another feather in Harbour View's hat.
Caitlyn O'Connell, a former Harbour View student (now a sixth-grader at Mesa View Middle School), came back to the school to speak to the kids. She first donated hair to Locks of Love several years ago, and she felt it was important to come back and address the students.
"This means a lot, helping kids who are sick," she said. "If we can help make a kid's life better, well, that's what we have to do."
Her speech was delivered with impressive poise and clarity.
Hannah Takasuka, one of the fourth-graders who was donating hair for the second time, told me how she became inspired.
"I saw a girl at one of our Girl Scout ceremonies," she recalled. "She had no hair because she had been sick. And it just made me feel like I wanted to help her and others."
So dozens of ponytails were snipped and placed in plastic bags for later delivery to Locks of Love. Kids cheered, music played, and there was great joy in the air as a bunch of compassionate young girls did a wonderful thing.
Great job, Girl Scout Troop 778.