Huge Giveaway as Foothill Unity Equips 1,200 Local Children for Start of School

Antonia and Aaron Zuniga posed with Pasadena Firefighter Steve OconitrilloCalifornia Highway Patrol gave away free car seats and helpedDonald P Schweitzer, Phlunte\' Riddle, and Greg Vanni, board memberFoothill Unity Center\'s Back to School Event at Santa Anita RacetrackFoothill Unity Center\'s Back to School Event at Santa Anita RacetrackFoothill Unity Center\'s Back to School Event at Santa Anita RacetrackFoothill Unity Center\'s Back to School Event at Santa Anita RacetrackFoothill Unity Center\'s Back to School Event at Santa Anita RacetrackEli, age 5, Jennifer, and Jizelle Rodriguez, age 6 receivedJanet Wall, co-chair of the event, Allan Mucerino, Superintendent ofJosiah Davis, Toni Morehead, Antonia and Aaron Zuniga and MikeKaylee Contreras chopped off more than 12 inches to donatekids-received-5-pairs-of-socks-and-a-certificate-to_20306806388_lMarshalls gave a $5000 check to Foothill Unity Center Nine year old Kaylee Contreras did more than get aSarah Austin with her three of her four childrenThe 87 cosmetology students from Citrus College expected to giveThe girls were treated like princesses getting their nails paintedThe Law Office of Donald P Schweitzer gave $21,500 to Foothill Unity Center\'s Back to School Event.The Law Office of Donald P Schweitzer team Casey MarticorenaUSC\'s Ostrow School of Dentistry provided a dental clinic to the visitors.Volunteers from the Monrovia Kiwanas helped outfit kids with school

Story and Photography by RACHEL YOUNG

5:05 am | August 12, 2015

With widespread community support, the Foothill Unity Center gave away school supplies and comprehensive services including haircuts to ready 1,200 underprivileged children to go back to school at Santa Anita Park on Tuesday.

In the spirit of giving, one nine year old who qualified to receive the provided services came to the event determined to give of herself to children with cancer by donating her own hair to locks of love.

One of the 87 cosmetologists at the event volunteering from Citrus College cut the locks of Kaylee Contreras, who had been following the stories of child cancer survivors—particularly a girl named Sophie—with her mother online.

“I don’t have any money to give them mommy, but I have hair,” Contreras told her mother Rebecca who started to cry as she relayed the story.

Kaylee saw that other kids don’t have what she has so she was willing to share. Taking off more than 12 inches of hair, it was Kaylee’s first haircut since birth.

The aspiring actress received everything she needs to get back to school at the event—a new uniform, socks and underwear, books, a new short hair do, painted nails, and of course a cute backpack that matches Kaylee’s dress rather than the “boring one” her mother could afford.

“This means the world to us right now. I just went through a divorce and he doesn’t believe in paying child support. We were really in a bind, so my mom was willing to take us in and brought us here. Everybody that is helping here today I wish I could give back a thousand fold,” Rebecca Contreras said.

Besides receiving brand new school supplies, the 1200 pre-qualified low income children also received free dental and vision screenings from USC School of Dentistry and CHAP Care.

The families who qualify to come to the 17th annual Back-to-School event have income levels below the federal poverty line and already receive other services from Foothill Unity Center, a center that services 11 San Gabriel Valley cities providing food, case management, and health care resources.

“We do this to put them on an even playing field so they go back to school feeling great about themselves and feeling great about school. Then they can learn better because they are not thinking ‘Oh I don’t have a backpack or I don’t have a pen or pencil,’” Board President of Foothill Unity Center Mary Ann Lutz said. “Everybody else has parents who help them get ready. Our parents don’t have the facilities to do that, so we can help them get ready so they can be their best.”

Mother of four kids, Sarah Austin, says she is not able to provide for her kids as she would like to with all the bills that pile up.

“Having the proper utensils to be able to learn in school. My daughters like to read, the books, being able to hold their stuff in a backpack, a nice pair of shoes. I really appreciate it,” Austin said. “It means a lot to us to get support from the community to make sure our kids are successful in school.”

With 55 community partners and more than 400 volunteers—the whole “village” partnered to equip the kids with the basic tools for success in the classroom.

Local firefighters came to talk to kids about safety and California Highway Patrol installed free car seats and booster seats into cars, demonstrating proper seat belt safety.

Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo and local Kiwanis clubs bought masses of volunteers as well as other businesses, schools, and community groups.

Leading up to the event, scouts groups and a variety of volunteers spent hundreds of hours organizing all the supplies—the team works on the event all year round.

In its 13th year at the Santa Anita Racetrack, volunteer John Watson said the event has become a well-oiled machine with efficient flow of people and every child receiving all the offered resources at their scheduled time throughout the day. This was the first year with air conditioning.

Togo’s provided lunch for the volunteers and Panda Restaurant Group gave out healthy egg roll snacks for the kids.

$100,000 worth of clothing was donated for the kids from Tzu Chi and Kids Fashion Design. Marshalls donated 300 backpacks and a check for $5000.

The Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer donated $21,500 toward the USC mobile dental clinic that will address serious dental issues for children screened at this large event in November.

Other sponsors included Costco, Target, Carmax, Amada, Bazic, Monrovia Transit, 3M, Burrtec, Brookdale, Trader Joes, Monrovia Reads, Custom Comfort Mattress, The Outlet, Monrovia Family Restaurant, Party Works, Southern California Edison, Toyota, Sydney Paige, Green Dot, Whole Foods, Athens Services, Duarte Transit, Pacific Clinics, JPL, and more.

“Kids can go back to school feeling great and looking great,” Executive Director of Foothill Unity Center Betty McWilliams said.

Founded in 1980, Foothill Unity Center services Pasadena, Altadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Bradbury, Duarte, Azusa, Baldwin Park and Irwindale. Seventy-nine percent of the Center’s clients are at or below the National Poverty Level. The number of people served by the organization has more than tripled over the last five years.

For more information about Foothill Unity, please visit their web site at