Thirteen-year-old KJ Love, who was recently named the Youth of the Year at the Lompoc Clubhouse, is introduced to the audience by Boys and Girls Club director Dena Kern.
November 22, 2013 12:45 am • Willis Jacobson/[email protected]
After seeing and hearing so many recent news stories about the devastating effects that bullying has had on children around the world, Dena Kern said she knew she needed to do something.
As the director of the United Boys and Girls Club of Lompoc, Kern realized she was in a unique position locally to help bring about change.
On Thursday morning, those efforts came to a head.
The Boys and Girls Club’s Lompoc Clubhouse hosted its fifth annual Community Breakfast on Thursday, and a major focus of the morning was on anti-bullying efforts. The event, which drew community, school and civic leaders from throughout the city, featured a multimedia presentation by author Suzanne Peck, whose book “Stand Tall” is a resource guide on bully prevention.
“We wanted to bring somebody to talk to us about this because many of our hearts are breaking as we watch things in the news, so collectively, the question is, ‘What are we doing as a community?’” Kern said. “Since I had this audience, I wanted to be able to take advantage of that and bring this to them.”
A little more than 180 people attended the breakfast — up from previous years’ attendances of 150 or so — which was held in the Clubhouse’s gymnasium.
There were representatives from various community organizations, including the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Realtors Association, the Santa Barbara Foundation and several faith-based organizations.
There were also three tables with leaders from Lompoc Unified School District, including Superintendent Trevor McDonald.
The event is the largest local fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club and Thursday’s breakfast was expected to net between $10,000 and $15,000 in donations.
Thirteen-year-old KJ Love, an eighth-grader at Lompoc Valley Middle School, briefly spoke to the audience about his experiences at the Boys and Girls Club. Love, who was recently named the Clubhouse’s Youth of the Year, started attending the Clubhouse after-school last fall.
“Without the Boys and Girls Club, I couldn’t have met some of the closest friends that I have,” he told the audience. “It provides me with educational support and a place to play my favorite sport. I can’t express how much the Boys and Girls Club means to me with just words. The closest word that I could get to it is ‘home.’”
Following Peck’s presentation, which featured several videos and focused on the methods taught in her book, Kern implored those organizations that work with children, particularly LUSD and the after-school programs, to utilize Peck’s methods.
The Boys and Girls Club purchased 100 copies of “Stand Tall,” and planned to distribute 95 of them around the community, including to the YMCA and local schools. Five of the copies were given away at Thursday’s breakfast.
Kern said she was hopeful that Peck would be back next year to discuss the results of the program.
Peck, a Santa Barbara native who gives similar talks around the country, said she welcomes that opportunity.
“For me, it’s not just about selling books,” she said. “It’s about changing the behavior, so making sure that teachers and community leaders are using this with kids in Lompoc is what I want to contribute to.”