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Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke is probably one of the best friends of Los Angeles County foster children and the best-known elected official among thousands of those who look forward to the annual end of summer Beach Blast where hundreds of young people converge on one of the county’s beaches to participate in swimming, surfing and bogey-board lessons, kayaking, beach frolicking, hot dogs and hamburgers, and just plain fun in the sun.
This year’s event was held adjacent to the Marina Del Rey Beach across from the Marriott Hotel on Mindanao Way and 200 children were hosted by Burke, county staffers, volunteers and the lifeguards who conducted the water sports lessons.
“This event has been held for our foster children for as long as I can remember,” Burke said. “It is a great opportunity to expose our foster children not only to the elements of beach and water safety but also to swimming, surfing, kayaking and other beach activities that they may not otherwise have an opportunity to enjoy.”
Jared Lindley, an 11 year-old sixth grader from Lutheran Elementary School said, “This is my first Beach Blast experience and today I learned how to surf and how to ride a bogey board. I am having a great time and lots of fun.”
With thousands of young people in the care of the massive Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family’s Services, mostly as a result of either physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse, and the majority of whom are Blacks and Hispanics, there is an ongoing effort to locate households willing to adopt these young people or foster-care families where they are able to enjoy the normalcy and dependability of a typical family-life.
In addition to the year-round effort required to supervise the care, safety and placement of LA’s foster children, Burke and her staff conduct two major events each summer intended to expose them to experiences that may be taken for granted in households where children are reared by loving families and family members; the annual fishing event where a few weeks ago Burke hosted over 400 children for an afternoon of catfishing and the annual beach blast.
Chuckia Smith, a 17 year-old senior from Dominguez Hills High School learned how to surf, bogey board and swim. “The lifeguards taught me how to balance myself in the water and I was able to swim,” she said.
“My Compton neighborhood has very few public swimming pools that I feel safe visiting,” she added, “so today’s experience was very special for me.”
Mysherry Moore, also a senior at Dominguez, added, “I learned how to swim because the lifeguards helped me conquer my fears.”
Rianda Parnell, a 15 year-old junior at the Hawthorne Math and Science Academy, who wants to become a forensic crime scene analyst, learned how to swim and was equally happy about making four new friends. She noted, “Bogey boarding was a lot easier than surfing and I look forward to doing it again sometime in the future.”
One of the county lifeguards, Sylvia Berezowski, who has served on Los Angeles County beaches for the last 10 years, appeared to be enjoying herself as much as the young people, who for many, have not previously had a beach experience.
“The kids are having a ball and I think I speak for all of the lifeguards by saying that it has been our pleasure working with this group of young people. The positive attitudes that they all seem to have, in spite of whatever their personal challenges may be, indicate to me that they are just like any other group of young people with an inquisitive nature, a zest for learning and for life, and frankly, just want to have fun!”