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Kids bask in free fun

More than 5,000 children, parents attend Day for Kids

Posted: September 12, 2009 6:44 p.m.
Updated: September 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Kevin Solorio, 9, left, and Jimmy Recinos, 12, do battle as they wear padded sumo wrestler suits at the Day For Kids at Newhall Park on Saturday. More than 5,000 children and parents attended the free event.

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As their small heads barely peeked above the neck opening of their inflated sumo-wrestling suits, brother and sister thudded against each other and tumbled to the ground.

"We tied," said 10-year-old Slade O'Connor and his sister, 8-year-old Skye, of Valencia.

For a week, Slade and Skye reminded their mother that Day for Kids was coming up and they couldn't miss it.

More than 5,000 children and parents sprawled across Newhall Park Saturday, engaging in entertainment and swallowing hot dogs at the fourth annual Day for Kids, presented by the Boys & Girls Club of SCV and the city of Santa Clarita.

And it was all for free - all of it, even the raffle tickets.

"She's having a blast and the best part of it is we're having this much fun and it hasn't cost a penny," said Santa Clarita resident Jeff Victor, father of 10-year-old Hannah Victor.

Hannah was thrilled she had received a personal-autographed photo from actor Dan Benson.

Benson stars as Zeke on The Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place. Benson was one of several entertainers amongst more than 300 local volunteers who donated their time to the thousands of kids that donned paper hats, goofy glasses and face-paint.

With the troubled economy, planners initially worried the $12- to $15-thousand event wouldn't be as grand as it had been in past years, said Jim Ventress, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV. But in hard times, families need an affordable - or free - and entertaining outlet.

"It's been rough for a lot of families in the SCV, we thought it was extremely important particularly this year," said Ventress, who co-chaired the event with Phil Lantis and Pat Downing with the city of Santa Clarita.

But 17 sponsors and 50 participants came through and neither parents nor kids seemed to notice that 52 vendors participated this year compared to last year's 70.

"The kids are having a blast and that's all the matters," Ventress said.

Still, financial fears eased as donations such as more than 3,000 beverages from Coca-Cola or 15 bicycles from Walmart were received throughout five months of planning.

The local Day for Kids was one of 1,500 taking place nationwide. Ventress said Santa Clarita's day is considered a signature event because it's one of the largest in the country.

The hope is that eventually Day for Kids will be a nationally recognized and celebrated day, Ventress said.

As for Santa Clarita, the event has definitely gained its prominence with local families.

"This event fits nicely with the philosophy of the community and why people come out here - it's kid-friendly and family-oriented," Ventress said.

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