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Footsteps Run for Assistance League

Operation School Bell benefits underprivileged children in the Santa Clarita Valley

Posted: April 11, 2009 7:10 p.m.
Updated: April 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Footsteps 5K Walk co-chairwomen Anne Kjaer, second from right and Gioria Regan, right, discuss plans for Assistance League of Santa Clarita Valley annual Footsteps 5K Walk with other members of Assistance League of SCV gathered at Newhall Park where the walk will be begin. Wearing T-shirts to be given out at the walk are, left to right, Joanie ...

The members of the Assistance League of Santa Clarita are taking steps in the right direction to help local children.

The group’s 19th Annual Footsteps 5K Run/Walk to be held Sunday, April 19 at Newhall Park is sponsored by HR Textron. The event
benefits the nonprofit organization’s “Operation School Bell.”

Operation School Bell will provide SCV children with new clothing, shoes, toiletries and personal care kits this fall as children return to school.

“The need is going up as the economy is going down. In 2006, we served 856 children. In 2008, it was 1,663 children, so the number has doubled,” said Gloria Regan, Footsteps co-chairwoman. “These are people that you would never think would be in need.”

According to Regan, more than 400 runners and walkers are expected to participate at Footsteps, with a goal of raising $30,000 or more for Operation School Bell. Awards will be given to the top-three finishers in each division in the 5K Walk/Run.

Pre-registration costs $25 for adults and includes a T-shirt; race day registration is $27. A 1K “Kids Fun Run” will also be held at $15 per pre-registered participant and $17 on race day. The family-style event runs on the walker-friendly South Fork Trail and is open to all levels of fitness.

This year, a “$10,000 Toss” has been added to the Footsteps festivities. One lucky participant’s name will be drawn; they’ll then have the opportunity to test their skills in a shoe toss sponsored by The Bank of Santa Clarita.

“We hope the community will come out and join us for this fun-filled family event. Not only will they have a great time, participants will leave gratified knowing that they are helping support local children in need with new school clothes and shoes,” said Anne Kjaer, Footsteps co-chairwoman.

Since 1992, “Operation School Bell” has provided nearly 10,000 children in need with assistance to enhance self-esteem, to promote learning and to encourage regular school attendance. Operation School Bell currently services Newhall, Saugus, Sulphur Springs and Castaic school districts. School personnel help to identify at-risk students and refer the family to the chapter in a discreet and sensitive manner. Those families are given a gift card to Kohls, which has partnered with Assistance League, to purchase new clothes in October and November.

“Some of these kids have never shopped in a department store before. They go to the sales racks and really go to town,” Regan said.

“Many of these kids have never had new clothing,” Kjaer said. “They usually get hand-me-downs from a sibling, so it’s very exciting for them and their parents, who are very grateful.”

After shopping at Kohl’s, the families receive a $20 gift certificate from Payless Shoes, as well as the personal care kits, put together by Assisteens, an Assistance League auxiliary, which contains shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush. School supplies will be distributed along with the kits.

“It’s really amazing to see the appreciation in these kids eyes, it’s just incredible,” Regan said. “I joined Assistance League because it’s hands on and the programs directly help people in the Santa Clarita Valley.”

The Santa Clarita chapter of Assistance League has been in operation since 1989 and raises funds through events such as Footsteps, as well as from private donations and sales from the Newhall Take Two Thrift Store, which offers used clothing, books, toys, household items and more at a fraction of the original price.

Assistance League membership is open to the community, ranging from voting members and professional members to non-members, who help out at events when they can.

All classifications except  nonmember volunteers pay dues and have obligations on chapter projects and fundraisers.

There are more than 115 chapters of National Assistance League across the United States. According to the organization, 24,000 members have returned more than $110 million to local communities and volunteered a total of more than 18 million hours during the last decade.

In addition to Operation School Bell, Assistance League reaches out to the SCV community through performances of “The Kids on the Block,” a troupe of child-like puppets that talk to children about social issues such as gang awareness, divorce and learning disabilities.

The Teddy Bear Patrol provides soft, cuddly bears to children who are involved in automobile accidents, domestic problems, separation from family, or facing surgery, while Remember 9-1-1 educates children what to do in an emergency situation.

Finally, Family Ties provides home-cooked meals and birthday gifts to residents of the Santa Clarita Convalescent Hospital.

“We support the kids, the elderly, and everyone in between,” Kjaer said. “It’s a great way to be involved in the community.”

For information about Assistance League visit



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