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Local execs thrown in the slammer - for good

Posted: December 3, 2008 10:36 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 4:59 a.m.

John Flynn of Kinetics Web Pro and Christine Sorensen converse Wednesday afternoon at Outback Steakhouse, after a wave of "arrests" of local business executives to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

 
Deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station assisted in "arresting" more than 40 local business executives Wednesday to raise money for the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Sheriff's deputies went to the executives' work places, apprehended them and transported them in patrol cars to a mock jail at the Outback Steakhouse on The Old Road. Several of the executives arrived at the "jail" in handcuffs.

MDA, a nonprofit health organization recognized for the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, hosted the "Santa Clarita Executive Lock-up" to raise money to send kids with muscular dystrophy to its week-long summer camps, which costs $800 for one child.

Business executives were charged with having "big hearts" and ushered to jail where they each had to come up with $1,600 bail, the cost of sending two kids to camp. They called friends, family and colleagues to donate to the bail funds which were in turn donated to MDA.

"They ask people that they know to contribute as much as they possibly can," said MDA District Director Nora Gharbidian. "Our goal is to raise $20,000 today so we can send all of our kids to camp next year."

The prisoners posed for mug shots in prison jumpsuits and enjoyed a free lunch provided by Outback Steakhouse.

"We do this every year for MDA." resturant owner Sixto Rodriguez said. "We've been doing it probably more than 10 years now. I provide the building, all the food is free, and the servers that are working don't get paid. They just do it because they want to help out the organization."

The lock-up targeted executives from all types of businesses.

"We try to make it fun," program coordinator Kara Lizarraga said. "Everyone is participating. We even have the Sheriff's Department participating, so some (executives) are going in police cars."

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Rick Miler, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, said he raised most of his bail money but being a prisoner was a new experience for him.

"You find out who your true friends are when you say, ‘I need bail money,'" he said. "It's fun and interesting. I'm used to putting people in outfits like this, but now I'm in the outfit. It's nice to know, though, that I'm not going away for a long time."

Prisoner Amanda Coe, property manager of The Hills at Valencia apartment community, just started to raise her bail.

"I'm trying to make a lot of phone calls and tell people I'm in jail," she said. "They're laughing at me because they don't believe me. A real officer came to my office (today) and picked me up, actually handcuffed me and put me in the back of the police car. I've never been handcuffed before."

Local Chiropractor Phillip Pinto was one of the incarcerated.

"I think those kids have a right to go to (camp), just like any other kid," he said. "If people can help I think it makes a big difference, even in this time with economic stress, I think it's rewarding. It feels good to give, so that's why I'm taking time out of my day to come and participate. I'm grateful to be able to."

Several moms with kids who have muscular dystrophy-related diseases volunteered at the lock-up.

Lisa Tennesen said she wanted people to see who benefits from the funds raised.

"It's our community and it's very important for people to know who the money goes to," she said. "It is a worthwhile cause for the families that benefit from it. Camp is not something any of us would probably be able to afford to send our child to."

Fourth-grader Cameron Kamp, diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease, said he attended The Painted Turtle summer camp in the past.

"It's a fun place," he said. "It's got fishing, swimming, boating ... a lot of fun things. Some (activities) are team-building; others are just fun by yourself."

Jared Schultz has Becker muscular dystrophy and his mother, Kari Schultz, is an MDA volunteer.

"He's gone to camp and we've attended tons of fundraisers since his first diagnosis," she said. "We want to show our appreciation to these people who are spending their time and money helping us. We can't send these children to regular summer camp and activities because they need medical care while they're there."

For more information about MDA, visit www.mda.org.

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