The Child Education Center Offers Up a Community Celebration of Children

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Article and Photos by RACHEL YOUNG

5:56 pm | June 18, 2013


Amidst the whimsical giving tree and paper lanterns of the Secret Garden, the parents, teachers, and community of the Child Education Center in La Cañada celebrated the children they serve by raising funds for their tuition at their 24th Annual Benefit and Auction.

The proceeds of the evening enable the Child Education Center (CEC) to provide a nurturing, child-centered and research-based care and education program for more than 700 children from infants through 6th graders at seven sites in Pasadena and La Cañada.

The mission of the CEC is to help children grow into happy, caring and productive human beings. Another service they off is the Outdoor Classroom Project, which has even expanded to Santa Barbara County.

The evening brought farm to table-inspired flavors to the beautiful Avery House at Caltech including fine wines by Everson Royce, artisan beers by Stone Brewing Co. and Eagle Rock Brewery, a tea tasing by Bird Pick Tea & Herb and dinner by The Market on Holly.

“Its wonderful to see parents all out here supporting their children,” a teacher mentioned to a parent in passing.

Co-Founder Eric Neslon recognized the Orfalea Foundation with the President’s Award for their inspirational leadership in transforming early childhood education in Santa Barbara County. He presented the colorful plaque, created by a CEC child with flowers and sunshine, to Director of the Early Childhood Program for Orfalea Foundation Adrianna Foss.

Orfalea has funded the work of the Outdoor Classroom Project and the Preschool Food Initiative to the tune of $2.25 million over the last 5 years for 170+ childcare centers. It is one of the very few foundations that focuses on urban childhood education and the wellbeing and development of very young children and their families.

“It means a great deal to be recognized by our friends and colleagues as we work together to improve early education. When we hear about great work that’s being done by organizations like the CEC we say that sounds great, can we help, can we carry some bags?” Foss said.

She mentioned they seek to emphasize the needs of the whole child and that while reading is important, they also look at things like grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character in their children.

The team from the center that puts the evening together is a combination of staff and parents working together all year.

“This is the earliest crowd I have ever seen here. Our ticket sales were above last year and I’m really happy, the work that the parents did to put the event together, I think they did a really stellar job,” Eric Nelson said.

The evening showcased the community that founders Eric and Elyssa Nelson yearned for since the CEC’s inception.

“When Elyssa and I started the center, we had one fundamental idea. That was for the center to be a community. We envisioned the childcare center would be a community of children, teachers, and parents all working together with everybody involved in learning,” Eric said.

They have a motto that happy staff, make happy children, make happy parents.

“We really focused on making sure our environment for the staff was very positive and I think that’s been one of the keys to our success,” Eric aid.