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‘Wee Man’ hosts big Chronic celebration

Grand re-opening draws hundreds

Posted: January 24, 2009 9:42 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Jason "Wee Man" Acuna walks tall in the Santa Clarita Valley, as approximately 300 fans jammed the Chronic Tacos parking lot in Saugus Saturday to see him during the restaurant's grand-reopening celebration and fundraiser for Yes I Can's Summer Meltdown concert.

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A few hundred fans cheered on actor, MTV host and skateboard star Jason “Wee Man” Acuna Saturday at Chronic Tacos' grand re-opening in Saugus, an event which doubled as a community celebration and fundraiser for an upcoming autism awareness concert.

The celebration featured a concert, raffles, giveaways and an appearance of the “Jackass” TV show star, and was free to the community as a “thank you” for its support during reconstruction.

Acuna, who was invited by one of the restaurant owners to come hang out at the event, said he was surprised by the turnout.

“I just thought I was going to help someone out,” he said while signing autographs by the tour bus. “I had no idea that it would be so big.”

Canyon High School senior Ryan Arner, who is a Yes I Can member, attended the event to listen to music and support the program.

“You learn about making a difference in the world, not judging people about disabilities, (and) not only disabilities — everybody,” Arner said.

His favorite part of the day was seeing “how many people came out to support.”

Canyon High School English teacher and Yes I Can advisor Lisa Lamedman said the students put a lot of hard work into the fundraiser.

“Starting early this morning, a bunch of kids from Canyon and Golden Valley came out to set up this event,” Lamedman said. “They’re selling T-shirts and coupon books and lanyards, whatever they can to raise funds.”

Young people flipped their skateboards in the parking lot while others waved their hands above their heads to catch free “Wee Man” shirts and caps tossed from the stage. They listened to the reggae band Kounterfeit Change, which played on a stage surrounded by custom-designed Chronic Tacos tour buses and trucks.

“The reason we did this show was to show gratitude to the (cities) of Saugus and Santa Clarita,” said one of the restaurant’s owners, Mike Gleich.

The restaurant was closed down for six weeks after a nearby fire hydrant broke several months ago, causing water to shoot up and destroy the taco shop’s roof, he said.

The celebration of the restaurant’s opening soon became a joint effort with the Yes I Can autism social-inclusion program's students and program advisers from Canyon and Golden Valley high schools.

The owners donated 20 percent of the day’s food sales to Yes I Can and all of the raffle proceeds to the organization for its May 16 “Summer Meltdown” concert, designed to raise autism awareness, Gleich said.

“Everyone’s doing it for free. It’s amazing,” Gleich said. “The bikes were donated, the skateboard was donated.”

A Nintendo Wii and other prizes were also raffled off.

Yes I Can’s goal is to raise $40,000 to $50,000 this year, compared to last year’s $25,000, so the students can afford to feature bigger headliners for the Summer Meltdown concert.

The reporter can be reached at vlovato@the-signal.com.

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