YMCA hosts walk and life skills fair

About 100 students and their siblings or parents participated Saturday in the first Walk for Life, hosted by the YMCA of the Foothills.

Starting at 10 a.m., two groups started out, one from the Verdugo Hills YMCA and the other from La Cañada Flintridge City Hall. Their shared destination was Rosemont Middle School in La Crescenta.

Once at the school, students participated in a life skills fair that provided insight into how to join the Los Angeles Sheriff's Explorers program to learn about law enforcement or who to call for help to prevent suicides or alcohol- or drug-related issues.

Mark Yeager, a chaplain of the YMCA of the Foothills, spearheaded the event after considering the nine teen suicides that he has known to have occurred in the past year and a half in the communities served by the YMCA of the Foothills.

Yeager enticed students to participate in the walk by giving away a free 2008 Mazda 6 at the event. Ultimately, the car was won by one of the Explorer Scouts participating in the fair, Jeremiah Seidman.

“Although we're giving a car away and that's fun… the whole purpose is getting them connected,” he said of the life skills fair. “I feel it's a great success.”

La Cañada High School senior Emily Vassilev walked with her brother, Steve Vassilev, who is a freshman at Cal Poly Pomona, after seeing the car displayed in the high school quad last week.

“I said, ‘Steve, we’re doing this so we don’t have to share a car anymore,’” Emily Vassilev said.

Fellow La Cañada High School senior Gian Kim said he attended the event hopeful that he’d win the car as well. He was skeptical that the event would deter fellow students from using illegal drugs, especially those already using them, but he valued the drug use awareness that the event fostered.

According to a survey by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 73% of 55 teens living in Glendale and the surrounding areas who were 12 to 17, reported that at least one of their four closest friends used alcohol in the past year.

About 60% of teens reported their closest friends had used marijuana in the same time frame.

“You still have to share the awareness,” Kim said. “First step to solving a problem — you have to know that there’s actually a problem first.”

-- Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Follow on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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