KidWorks health assessments keep students learning and thriving

KidWorks health assessments keep students learning and thriving

If you happen to be a preschooler at KidWorks, the last thing you need is a toothache when you’re trying to learn your ABCs, the colors of the rainbow and how to properly draw a rectangle. 

In central Santa Ana, 9.5% of children are without health insurance, which is significantly higher compared to other cities in Orange County.  Not only can undetected health issues lead to greater health challenges but also higher absenteeism from school. 

KidWorks Volunteer of the Month: Nancy Mai


The Bible often refers to the importance of humble service, and that’s a good description of Nancy Mai, the KidWorks’ February “Volunteer of the Month.”

For the past four years, Nancy has provided administration services to our Volunteer Department, assisting with data entry and other needs.

“By working in the background, I may not always interact directly with the students, however it makes me happy to know that my administrative work is vital to helping KidWorks run smoothly so we create wonderful moments for the kids,” Nancy says.

It’s not that Nancy never gets to spend time with our students, however.  In the past, she’s volunteered in support of our summer and after school programs.

“Nancy is extremely dependable and one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet,” says Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resource Manager.  “We look forward to seeing her every Friday like clockwork.  The work she does is so instrumental to providing the very best volunteer experience possible.”

Nancy says she first learned about KidWorks when she attended a panel at the University of California, Irvine. 

“From the start, I believed in what KidWorks was doing and that made me decide to get involved,” she says.  “Since then, I’ve made new friends by interacting with other volunteers.  And when a student happens to drop by, that’s always fun because you never know what he or she will do or say next!” 

Nancy values education just like we do.  At UCI, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and prior she earned an Associate Degree in chemistry from Santa Ana College.  Her career goal is to become a physician’s assistant.  In pursuit of that objective, she’s doing volunteer work at a local hospital, serving in the emergency and nursing units.

For fun, Nancy says she enjoys reading and movies, plus arts and crafts (she’s made keychains, earrings and greeting cards).

Nancy is also best friends with her cat, Bear.

“I sometimes dress him up,” she confesses.  Bear declined to comment about how he feels about that activity!

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer


KidWorks Parent Council Gears Up For Even Bigger Dreams in 2018


Vianey Quiroz and Maria Peña never set out to be role models when they joined the KidWorks’ Parent Advisory Council.  Yet, their hearts for their families, central Santa Ana and KidWorks has led them and 18 other parents to grow in ways they never imagined.

Vianey and Maria are members of our Parent Council, a group formed four years ago to strengthen the bond between KidWorks and the families we serve.

Now, the council is setting even higher goals for itself for 2018 and beyond.

“The council is expanding its focus to include not only KidWorks, but the community as a whole,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, Parent Engagement Coordinator.

That has included everything from advocating for better street lighting, pushing sometimes reluctant landlords to make necessary apartment repairs and even addressing ways to improve traffic flow at our Dan Donahue Center during especially busy times.

“We really benefit from the leadership workshops where KidWorks has brought in outside speakers,” Vianey says.  “We have learned that to make meaningful change you have to understand how government works, make contacts with decision-makers and rally neighbors together because two, three and four is better than one when it comes to issues we all care about.”

Adds Maria, “I went from being an observer to now knowing that I want to be a part of making improvements at KidWorks and the community.  I want to give my time, effort and support.”

Like all members of the KidWorks Parent Council, Vianey and Maria have students enrolled in our programs.  For Vianey, that includes her son, Jared, a fifth grader; and Jair, a kindergartener.  For Maria it is her daughter, Stephanie, a ninth grader.  The 20 parents run their monthly council meetings like a well-managed business.


“It’s so good to watch these parents work together as a strong team,” Sonia says.  “For each 90-minute monthly meeting, they come prepared with an agenda, prioritize goals and are now in the process to assigning responsibilities and deadlines.  They are a really hands-on group, lending invaluable support to events such as our annual resource fairs in the neighborhood.”

Maria says that one of the key lessons she has learned as part of the Parent Council is that meaningful changes rarely happen overnight.

“When a positive change happens, it’s worth all the time, effort and even occasional frustration that it takes,” Maria says.  “Because it means we’ve made life a little better for a child, a family and a community.”

Dedicated parents like Vianey and Maria, along with the other members of the KidWorks Parent Council, guarantee that Maria’s dreams for an even better Santa Ana are coming true.  

For more information about the KidWorks Parents Council including a calendar of events, click the button below. 

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

KidWorks Volunteer Of The Month: Stephen Ruvalcaba

How many volunteer hours would it take to fully sample every single one of KidWorks’ life-affirming programs?  For Stephen Ruvalcaba—our January “Volunteer of the Month”—the answer would be 750 hours. 


That’s because Stephen completely dedicates himself to whomever and to whatever he has made a commitment.  The remarkable tally of 750 hours was logged between when he first began volunteering in June 2016 until the end of 2017.

“Stephen has been such a great volunteer, being a part of programs that include preschool, after school tutoring and even special events,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant.  “He’s always so willing to help with whatever task needs to be done.  Stephen is deeply appreciated by all of the staff, volunteers and students.” 

Stephen has also been a hands-on volunteer with our summer program, student campus visits and field trips, golf classic and Foundation for Success luncheon.

 He recalls a particularly poignant moment with one of our high school students, in whom he recognized God-given artistic talent.

 “She said her drawings represent how she feels,” Stephen says.  “I urged her to make a comic book out of her drawings and to tell a story through her artwork.  I mentioned that there are wonderful careers that her talent could one day make possible, such as an illustrator, author or movie producer.  She began work on the comic book project and it made me so happy to see her start to pursue her passion.” 

Stephen has seen first-hand how the partnership between our staff, volunteers and donors makes a lasting positive impact on our students.

 “I have seen kids struggling to read, who pick up a book and read to me,” he says.  “I’ve witnessed students having trouble with math who eventually gain the confidence to help teach other kids how to work out a problem.  I have seen so many talented students thrive when they receive encouragement to overcome their fears of social norms and to stand out.”

 Even as he dedicated all those hours to our students, Stephen kept a focused eye on his own education.  He graduated this month from West Coast University with a bachelor of science degree in nursing.   

“My goal is to become an intensive care unit or emergency room nurse,” Stephen says.


When not helping to encourage young minds at KidWorks or pursuing his career goals, Stephen enjoys Malaya, his family’s Siberian Huskie.  He’s also coached and played football.

We are very grateful for each of Stephen’s hundreds of volunteer hours—and we are even more grateful for him!  Congratulations on being named January “Volunteer of the Month,” Stephen.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

KidWorks Launches College Success Initiative


At KidWorks, 100% of our  high school seniors graduate on  time and 100% go on to college or university. And until now, we thought of them as our alumni. With the launch of our new KidWorks College Success Initiative™  we now serve students from Pre-K to B.A., making an 18 year commitment to each student at KidWorks.  

The students we serve live near or below the poverty line.  Often their families are caught in a poverty cycle and are just surviving.  The best way to break the cycle is preventing it in the next generation. Currently 89%  of low-income students leave college without a degree and 25% leave after their first year.   Our KidWorks College Success Initiative™ is aimed at ending the poverty cycle by providing our students the tools they need to graduate from college and begin careers that break the cycle.  At KidWorks, we know eventually the cycle of poverty breaks.  One family at a time.

Philanthropist, business leader, educator and long-time supporter of KidWorks, David A. Pyle, has provided us with a one million dollar matching grant opportunity.  This grant provides KidWorks with the funding needed to implement our new KidWorks College Success Initiative™.  Donate to the KidWorks College Success Initiative™  and double your impact.  You will be helping us improve our community by ending the poverty cycle. Every dollar you give becomes two and every dollar you give changes a life!

Holiday Season Wraps Up Nicely For KidWorks

Why is KidWorks still celebrating Christmas in January?  Because we are so awed by the generosity of the many generous supporters who brought the joy of the season to hundreds of parents and children we serve.  We hosted several events during the holiday season that brought tremendous joy to the students and families we serve.

Operation Gobble Serves 1,000 Turkeys:
Most of the families KidWorks serves struggle financially—yet like everyone else they strive to make the holidays a very special time of year.  Our generous supporters stood beside those families once again this year to make sure Thanksgiving had “all the trimmings” of joy, fellowship and relationships.


More than 1,000 turkeys were distributed to families in central Santa Ana—more than twice the number provided in 2016.  It was all part of KidWorks’ Operation Gobble event.

“You could see the wide smiles and hear words of gratitude with each turkey handed out,” says Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resources Manager.  “The turkeys represented not only the main dish of the meal but also the warm wishes of those donating and distributing them.”

KidWorks especially thanks Assemblymember Tom Daly of District 69 (representing Santa Ana, Anaheim, Garden Grove and Orange), who donated the turkeys and arranged for the distribution event.  We also thank the many volunteers from Astronics, Laborers International Union #652, UPS and Astronics Test Systems for greeting the families and handing out turkeys. Other event supporters include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Orange County Employees Association, Santa Ana Police Officers Association, State Farm and Teamsters Local 952.

Mater Dei Women's Soccer Scores Big With Winter Fest:
Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana has been a tremendous partner with KidWorks for so many years—and they made sure to be there to wish our students a joyous Christmas 2017.


In early December, the school hosted a Winter Fest event enjoyed by 100 of our kindergarten through fifth graders.  Soccer Coach Matthew West and 67 of his girl soccer team members treated our students to arts and crafts, a photo booth and a friendly game of soccer—all with Christmas music playing to set the holiday mood. Mater Dei also generously arranged for Italian ice deserts and holiday gift bags for all the children. 

A number of our students have been blessed to attend Mater Dei over the years, and we appreciate their generosity and love for our students in so many countless ways—not only during the holidays but all year round.


KidWorks Christmas Store is a gift to KidWorks Families:
What makes the store so special to these parents is that it offers them a sense of being able to provide for their families,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, KidWorks’ Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “They are able to buy donated gifts at a deep discount for their children to make the holidays brighter.  With the expansion of the Dan Donahue Center, we are enrolling even more students into our programs, and the Christmas store blessed even more families in 2017.”

Adds Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resources Manager: “This was definitely a record-breaking year in terms of the number of gifts donated.  We received 500 more gifts than average, and that let us reach even more families with an even wider selection of gifts.”


Those gifts ranged from dolls, LEGOs, skateboards, bikes, gift cards, stuffed animals, headphones, speakers, makeup, purses, backpacks, coloring sets, book sets and more. 

That meant that 200 sets of parents were able to shop at our Christmas store, and nearly 700 children received gifts.  On top of that our Youth Engagement Network distributed gifts in the neighborhood surrounding KidWorks’ centers, and additional gifts were presented to children enrolled in our licensed preschool.

A total of 54 volunteers helped sort gifts, set up the store, wrap presents and assist parents carrying packages to their vehicles.  The volunteer teams from DPR Construction and PIMCO helped make everything run so smoothly.

A special KidWorks “thank you!” goes out to Mariners Church.  They donated 1,000 gifts.  We are also grateful for the generous donations from Hispanic 100, St. Andrew's Church and the Marconi Automotive Museum.

“The real gift of Christmas has always been to be able to give rather than to receive,” Melissa says. “Not only did all of our Christmas store supporters give, they also provided the means for parents to give as well, no matter what their economic circumstances might be.  For that we are so very grateful!

The Future Shines Bright For KidWorks in 2018


Happy New Year!  2017 was a banner year for KidWorks -- we recently completed construction on the KidWorks Dan Donahue Center, eliminated our student waiting list, and our Foundation for Success Luncheon was a record-breaking year for both revenue and visibility. 

The future continues to shine bright for KidWorks.  Over the next year, we are expanding our commitment to KidWorks students through our College Success Program, engaging new volunteers and corporate partners, and are busy planning our 2018 Golf Classic and Foundation for Success luncheon events.  


2018 also marks the 25th anniversary of KidWorks.  We have a lot to celebrate over the next year and there simply isn't space in this short message to update you with all of the latest and greatest happenings.  We will provide updates on our blog, e-news, social media and website.  

Thank you for partnering with KidWorks; we are truly blessed to serve alongside so many amazing individuals in our community

With Gratitude~
David Benavides 

KidWorks Volunteer Of The Month: Kyle Team


“Ms. Kyle, can you stay a little longer?”

“Ms. Kyle, can you come back again tomorrow?”

Kyle Team, our December “Volunteer of the Month,” gets those questions all the time from the dozens of KidWorks elementary school students who have come to rely on her for homework help and spiritual development since she first began volunteering nearly four years ago.

“Two core principles guide me to do my best with the kids,” Kyle says.  “First, I do everything I can to recall all their names and call them by name.  That makes such a difference; they know you personally remember them.  Second, I’m consistent.  Students really appreciate it when you are there on a regular basis.  Oftentimes, their lives have many challenges, and they truly appreciate reliability and dependability.”

Kyle is also a member of the KidWorks’ board of directors, where she is highly valued for her strategic thinking skills and long-term vision for our growth and financial sustainability.

Says Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations:  “Kyle can always be counted upon to follow-through on her commitments, and she has been very instrumental in bringing new partners and volunteers to KidWorks, and in deepening the involvement of others who are already engaged with us.”

Kyle enjoys her dual role as a board member and tutoring volunteer.

“The contrast is that as a board member you prepare in advance, review agenda items and make certain to be very organized,” she says.  “For a tutoring session, I just bring myself, remaining flexible to whatever a particular student may need during the 90 minutes we are together.”


Kyle has been especially effective in developing and strengthening the partnership between KidWorks and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, where she is a church leadership elder.

KidWorks is honored to be one of about a dozen ministry partners selected by the church.  She works closely on that partnership with Lisa Gels, along with church member Joe Cristina, also a KidWorks volunteer and leader of our Avanti Music program.

Kyle is married to David, a real estate developer.  Their children are Jordan, 25, who works in corporate public relations and Brian, 22, who is employed in the computer technology field.


“We love to ski and have probably been on every mountain range in California, Colorado, Utah and Idaho,” Kyle says.  As part of her very active church life, Kyle also conducts Bible studies for new or expectant mothers, and invites friends over to her home for Bible lessons and discussions.

We are very grateful for Kyle’s leadership as a member of our board and for her enduring positive impact on every KidWorks student she helps each week.  Congratulations on being named December “Volunteer of the Month,” Kyle

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

Holiday Happenings This December At KidWorks


Each December, a hustle and bustle of activities happen at KidWorks to help make Christmas merry and bright for the students and families of KidWorks.  

The festivities kicked-off with a Christmas decorating party held by the employees of BBVA Compass, US Bank and Wells Fargo at all four KidWorks centers.  This tradition started several years ago when our friends and corporate partner, US Bank started decorating the KidWorks centers and this year BBVA Compass and Wells Fargo lent their help to the festivities.  When our students returned to KidWorks after Thanksgiving Break they were greeted with Christmas cheer.  

The celebrating doesn't stop there, now that December is in full swing there are a myriad of activities taking place at KidWorks this month.  We welcome members of the community to participate in all that's happening this season.  


KidWorks Love in Music Concert (12/09 @ 1pm.  Free)
The KidWorks beginning and intermediate students enrolled in our Love in Music program perform holiday favorites in their annual recital.  All events take place at KidWorks. 

Posadas Christmas Celebration (12/15 @ 5:30pm)
Celebrate the Christmas Season at our Las Posadas Christmas Celebration.  Greet KidWorks students and families as they arrive from the Townsend Street processional, enjoy Christmas treats, sing carols, play games, meet KidWorks students and celebrate the start of Christmas with your KidWorks family.  

KidWorks Christmas Store/Toy Drive (12/13 & 12/19 - times vary):
Volunteers and toys are needed at our KidWorks Christmas Store this December.   Each year we collect hundreds of gifts for our Annual Christmas Store.  To provide our parents the joy of purchasing Christmas gifts for their children, the toys are made available at 10% of their retail value and the proceeds from the store then go to a benevolence fund to assist the neediest of KidWorks families throughout the year.  Visit for more details

KidWorks Is A Family Affair For The Torres Family

Three-year-old Stephany Torres can’t yet tell you a whole lot about why she wants to join her brothers and sisters at KidWorks—she just knows it sure looks like tons of fun.


Next year, she’ll be eligible to enroll in our state-licensed preschool, where she’ll learn colors, shapes, counting to 20 and maybe even how to write her name.  For now, she says that the KidWorks preschool holds out an irresistible allure:  “Toys!” she shouts, when asked what she most looks forward to.

Stephany’s parents—Jesus and Karina—head a family that embodies our hopes and dreams for the central Santa Ana community.  They are an especially close family and share KidWorks’ passion for instilling in children a love of learning, the arts, leadership and spiritual development.

All of their other children are active participants in KidWorks various programs:  Evelyn, 15; Jesse, 11; Ashley, 10; Andrew, eight and Alex, five.

Music and baseball are at the top of the list of the Torres’ favorite activities, and they find ample opportunity to enjoy both through KidWorks’ programs.


Evelyn is an accomplished musician and singer who is part of our Avanti Music and Love in Music programs.  She is also an active member of our Youth Empowerment Network (YEN), a group of dedicated teens who develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.  Also involved in Love in Music are Ashley, who is learning the violin; Jesse, who says playing the flute is the best way to relax after taking a grueling math test at school (he’s also a YEN member) and Andrew, who says the piano lets him express himself creatively.

Jesus is a dedicated father who coaches baseball and watches over his children when Karina is at the Dan Donahue Center attending Parent Advisory Council meetings or otherwise helping out.  Karina is also very active in making central Santa Ana a safer place.

Recently, she helped form a Neighborhood Watch group for the apartment complex where she and her family live.  The City of Santa Ana required that she secure a minimum of 10 signatures from her fellow tenants—so Karina rallied all the residents and got 30 to sign up.


“When we walk in the neighborhood, we still have to pass by gangs and observe illegal drug use,” Karina says.  “The presence of these situations can start to seem normal, but it never should.  KidWorks is a place that reminds us of the limitless potential for good in our community.”

The Torres family has come to rely on KidWorks at all times.  For several years, Jesus could not find work due to a slowdown in the commercial and residential construction industry and was forced to take a job in Texas for eight months working on oil rigs.  At the time, Karina was pregnant with Alex.

“While I was away, KidWorks became a second home for my family,” Jesus recalls.  Adds Karina, “It takes time for me to build up trust, and I soon came to see that KidWorks would be there for us no matter how big or small a need my family might have.”

Says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator:  “Both Jesus and Karina constantly demonstrate to their children what it means to have a servant heart.  Our staff and volunteers are so delighted every time we see them walk through our doors.”

“It seems as though our family is always coming from or going to KidWorks,” Karina laughs.  We are grateful for the amazing ways KidWorks is making so many positive changes in the lives of our children, our family and our community. We are excited to see even more students and families served at KidWorks in 2018.

KidWorks wouldn’t have it any other way! 

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

A future CEO in Training


Karen G. recalls telling her mom,  “I want to go to KidWorks!” as a three-year-old when she saw her big sister, Gilda, head off each weekday to our after-school programs.  The persistence and tenacity that defines Karen’s personality to this very day meant she never let up until she convinced her mom to enroll her.  Never mind that at three, Karen was still a year short of qualifying for KidWorks preschool programs.

“I managed to get in to what I now call pre-preschool,” Karen laughs.  “I’m one lucky kid who got a special opportunity to be part of KidWorks from such a young age, up to and including today,” she says.

Now a junior at Valley High School in Santa Ana, Karen not only remains active at KidWorks but also plays on her school water polo team, is active in student body leadership and plays saxophone in the school jazz band.  She is also President of Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led initiative that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanup, sponsored events and other activities.  As part of this organization, she has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council and the Santa Ana Unified School District Board.  The first time she did this, she was only in seventh grade. "KidWorks has given so many great opportunities, I learned what it means to be a leader.” says Karen.


Karen recently overcame a potentially life-threatening event.  She underwent testing and treatment because of a cancer diagnosis.  Despite the physical pain of her treatment, Karen stayed active at KidWorks, and kept volunteering on her school’s water polo and swim teams, despite being unable to compete due to her treatment.  We thank God that she is now cancer-free.  Each Friday, Karen leads a health a fitness workshop for our third, fourth and fifth grade girls to encourage students to stay physically active. 

Like all KidWorks high school students, college and career preparation are a major part of her focus.  As she plans her career, Karen knows that her next stop after graduating high school is to attend a university with a focus in sociology and social service.  Karen is always one to set her sights high. “One day, I hope to be executive director of KidWorks,” she says. 

Support students like Karen on the road to college this #givingtuesday! With the expanded KidWorks Dan Donahue Center 300 new students are joining our programs.


Volunteer Of The Month: Davion Williamson

(Editor’s note:  Each month, the KidWorks’ volunteer team clears their calendars for an hour or two for one of their favorite duties:  Selecting the Volunteer of the Month.  With each monthly eNews going forward we’ll now announce that valued contributor and let you know a little about him or her.  For October, our wonderful Volunteer of the Month is Davion Williamson.)


Oftentimes our students may decide on a future career goal because of all the broadening experiences they encounter at KidWorks.  In the case of university baccalaureate student Davion Williamson, KidWorks actually helped him decide on a career he’s sure to excel at:  Teaching.

Our October Volunteer of the Month says, “Being at KidWorks is actually what made me decide to get into teaching.”  Davion is on his way toward that goal, taking classes to earn a teaching credential in math after graduating this June from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in “Criminology, Law and Society” as well as “Psychology and Social Behavior.”

Davion has been volunteering as part of our University Starts Now (USN) after school program since January and has already logged 200 hours helping our students.  USN focuses on our younger students, ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and is focused on four foundational pillars: Academics & Arts, Health & Fitness, College & Career Readiness, and Leadership & Spiritual Development.

“You will always see Davion with a smile on his face,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant.  “He is very intentional and enthusiastic while working with our students.  He is such a pleasure to work with, and we appreciate everything he does here at KidWorks!”


Davion fully enjoys each hour he spends with our students.  “I make sure to have a positive style and always remain patient.  I'll ask them questions about their homework and try to put it into a context they can relate to.  I also always keep my energy up so theirs stays up as well.”

Just as he is doing within his own life, Davion supports the dreams of our students:  “I really hope that everyone reaches his or her full potential and is able to follow their hearts.”

Between his own studies and helping our kids with theirs, Davion finds time to write music, a particular passion of his. 

We are grateful to Davion for being such an exemplary role model for our students, and for encouraging them to always do their very best.  Congratulations, Davion!  

Be Of Good Cheer: Volunteers & Donations Needed For KidWorks Christmas Store


For many of the central Santa Ana families KidWorks serves, being able to purchase Christmas gifts is not always financially possible.  Their limited funds go to rent and groceries.  That’s why the KidWorks Christmas store has been such a blessing for hundreds of families for 15 years. 

“What makes the store so special to these parents is that it offers them a sense of being able to provide for their families,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, KidWorks’ Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “They are able to buy gifts for their children to make the holidays brighter.  With the expansion of the Dan Donahue Center, we are enrolling even more students into our programs, and we hope the Christmas store will bless even more families this year.”

ChrsitmasStore 2017.jpg

This year, the store will be open to serve families on Wednesday, Dec. 13 from 8 a.m. to noon and on Tuesday, Dec. 19th from 8 a.m. to noon and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

You can make the holidays a time of joy for these families by helping in two important ways:

1) Donate Gifts & Gift Cards:  Please bring your new, unwrapped items to KidWorks no later than Dec. 14.

2) Volunteer at the KidWorks Christmas store:  Help wrap gifts for the parents, and assist those needing help loading gifts into their vehicle or cart.

Interested in knowing more?  Please contact the KidWorks’ volunteer department at:  714-834-9400, extension 115.

Your help will help continue our 15-year tradition of creating holiday smiles!

KidWorks Youth Advocate For Safe, Sanctioned Skate Parks

Did you know that the International Olympic Committee has for the first time included skateboarding as part of the Summer Games at Tokyo, Japan, in 2020?  A group of five KidWorks’ youth are especially excited about this addition.

They comprise the Youth for Active & Safe Communities (YASC) committee within our Youth Empowerment Network (YEN), a group of dedicated teens who develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.


The five students are:  Jose Arguello, Melissa Guerrero, Irma Mateo, Edwin Ruiz and Evelyn Torres.

Skateboarding has been a key area of their focus for over a year now, says Maria Ruvalcaba, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator—Active Transportation.

“Active transportation—such as biking, walking and skateboarding—is how many of our youth get to school, appointments and other destinations,” Maria says.  “Being physically active is part of our advocacy for healthy diets and exercise.”

The five youth in YASC do much more than spend time on their skateboards.  They have become proactive spokespeople for sanctioned skate parks in Santa Ana.

“Santa Ana has just one skate park within the entire city,” Maria says.  “Our goal is a skate park in each of the six wards within Santa Ana before the Summer Olympics kick off in 2020.”


To that end, YASC has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council, Parks and Recreation Department and met with other elected officials.  They have also partnered with such skateboard advocacy groups as the Tony Hawk Foundation, Action Sports Kids Foundation and OC Ramps.

In October, Edwin Ruiz spoke at a walk/bike conference in Sacramento, where he shared his perspective that the streets are often dangerous for skateboarders, whereas skate parks are safe and sanctioned environments.

“My passion for skateboarding has grown ever since I noticed that it brings youth together as a family as we encourage each other,” Edwin says.  “This has motivated me to work on improving our streets and adding more skate parks to keep other youth like myself active and safe.”

“Funding for five more skate parks is far from finalized, yet our youth are committed to working through each detail and taking every step,” Maria says.  “Their latest effort is a detailed data gathering project within neighborhoods to assess attitudes and preferences by the community relative to skate parks.”

Maria says that in addition to skate park advocacy, the experience is providing our youth with valuable training in leadership and team work.

“Skate boarding can suffer from a less than positive image,” Maria says.  “I think our YASC youth are doing a wonderful job changing that undeserved image.”

 By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer


In the midst of struggle, the Vega family finds strength in each other and KidWorks


During the toughest years financially for her and her family, Esmeralda Vega worked most days baking loaves of Mexican-style bread stuffed with rice pudding or sweet potatoes.  Then, she and her two boys—then just eight and nine years old--would spend hours going door-to-door selling the bread to their central Santa Ana neighbors for $1.50 apiece. 

At the end of a long evening, the profit was often only $50.  Before or after walking all those miles, her sons, Cristian and Enrique, would sit down to complete all their school homework from that day.

At the same time, Esmeralda’s husband, Enrique, would take any minimum wage job he could find in order to provide for his family.  Few of his employers knew that before the Great Recession during the late 2000s and early 2010s, he had been a mid-level manager for 16 years at a major corporation within the food industry.

Today, the Vegas’ are an example of the deep faith in God, unbending tenacity in the face of hardship and strong commitment to others found in so many of the families we serve.  The fabric of their lives is deeply interwoven into KidWorks programs, and also in the many hours they volunteer supporting our outreach events into the surrounding community.

Cristian is now a sophomore at highly-regarded Mater Dei High School, having earned one of only two scholarships awarded each year through a partnership between KidWorks and the school.  He plans to become a forensic scientist.  The younger Enrique is an eighth grader at Saddleback High School.  His dream is to become a detective, working in law enforcement.

The Vegas’ are also very proud of daughters Janet, 22, an assistant manager at a finance company and Azucena, 24, a teacher and registered nurse.

KidWorks became a safe haven for the Vega’s two boys four years ago when the Great Recession forced the family to move from a more spacious apartment in the City of Orange, to a much smaller one bedroom apartment not far from our Townsend Center, where they still live. 

“My brother and I began attending KidWorks after school programs in 2015 at the insistence of our mom,” Cristian recalls.  “At first, we resisted.  But then, we figured out that this place was alright after all.  We made friends that we’re still close with today.”

Both sons continue to volunteer as altar servers at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Ana, something they've done since Cristian was eight and Enrique was nine.  Both daughters did the same from 11 to 20 years old.

Enrique, the husband, gives all credit to Esmeralda for searching out KidWorks and enrolling his sons.  “She is our strength,” he states.  As he says this, tears slide down Esmeralda’s face as she recalls the struggles they’ve all gone through and how the hardships only solidified the lasting bond between all of them.

It wasn’t long after their two sons joined KidWorks that Enrique and Esmeralda began volunteering at our Dan Donahue Center.  They’ve helped out at the Townsend Raitt Street Resource Fair, and Esmeralda has pitched in with childcare, administrative projects and other tasks at the Dan Donahue Center.

Both of them joined the KidWorks Parent Advisory Council in 2016.

“The Vegas’ approach is that community starts with one strong family and this replicates into many other strong families, which leads to an even more resilient Santa Ana,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “Enrique and Esmeralda have been married for 25 years, and have counseled about 40 soon-to-be-married couples.  Their strong character is deeply rooted in each of their wonderful children.  We are so grateful for each member of this inspiring family!”  

The younger Enrique says it best when speaking about his family’s tenacity:  “You never fail if you get right back up when you fall.”

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer



2017 Foundation For Success Presenting Sponsors: Raising The Bar For KidWorks

A 2nd grade girl in our after-school programs might not yet have heard of American Career College/West Coast University, Balboa Bay Resort, Caribou Industries, Heidi and Ruben Mendoza or Toyota Financial Services—but these generous Foundation for Success supporters have certainly heard of her!

That’s because our luncheon “Presenting Sponsors” have given so generously of time, talent and financial resources to support the event that raises the crucial dollars to support our vital after school programs enjoyed by that second grader and hundreds of other children and youth.  This year, we are excited to announce that we have more presenting sponsors than in the history of the Foundation For Success Luncheon.  We invite you to get to know our Presenting Sponsors a little bit better:


American Career College & West Coast University:  David Pyle philanthropist, Founder/Chief Executive Officer of American Career College and shareholder of West Coast University, has generously supported KidWorks for many years.  His organizations have been a Foundation for Success “Presenting Sponsor” since the second year of the event.  Yet, David does so much more for our students.  He meets with them to discuss their career path, and provides interns to serve in our programs.  He and his team have donated hundreds of hours serving at KidWorks.  David has also been a major donor to the campaign that helped make possible the expansion of our Dan Donahue Center.

Balboa Bay Resort:  The Balboa Bay Resort management Team began supporting KidWorks as a result of the 2013 Foundation for Success luncheon.  They have been supporters ever since.  We deeply appreciate their consistent generosity on behalf of KidWorks in so many ways.  This includes a major gift from their family foundation that contributed to the expansion of our Dan Donahue Center.

Caribou Industries:  Mike Harrah, President, has a kind heart and generous spirit for children, youth and their educations.  Since connecting with KidWorks in 2015, he has been one of our most generous supporters.  This has included the Foundation for Success luncheons, as well as our annual KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament, where he was Title Sponsor in 2017.

Heidi & Ruben Mendoza: Heidi and Ruben Mendoza have been KidWorks supporters since the beginning of our mission to serve children, youth and families in central Santa Ana.   Ruben was instrumental in the building of the original Dan Donahue Center and has been actively involved in the recent major expansion of that facility.  Both Heidi and Ruben continue to support KidWorks in countless ways.


Toyota Financial Services – Mike Groff, President & CEO, received the 2016 Dan Donahue Leadership award at last year’s Foundation for Success luncheon.  That was the first year the award was presented. Toyota Financial Services has been a Presenting Sponsor since the first luncheon, and ever since.  His company also donated four vans to KidWorks, which are part of helping us run smoothly each day.

To learn how you can be part of our Foundation for Success Luncheon, please visit:

What do a Philanthropist, Navy Seal, and College Student all have in Common?


One has helped countless students earn credentials in order to fulfill their career dreams.  Another has risked his life to keep our country safe and preserve freedom.  A third was inspired by KidWorks to pursue a fit and healthy lifestyle—and then share his passion with others.

You’ll have a chance to be uplifted as you hear from each of these three at KidWorks’ 11th annual Foundation for Success Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Santa Ana.

David A. Pyle, is a philanthropist, Founder/Chief Executive Officer of American Career College and shareholder of West Coast University.  At the luncheon, he will be honored with our prestigious 2017 Dan Donahue Leadership Award. 


“This very special award recognizes David’s fervent support for KidWorks’ youth and families,” said David Benavides, KidWorks’ Executive Director.  “For decades, David has been a leader and innovator in the private, postsecondary education community, and he is as passionate about the community as he is about supporting health care and educational programs that aid underserved children and families.”

“I have been a supporter of KidWorks because these young men and woman are being developed as our future leaders and will be making a difference in our communities,” David Pyle said.  “Seeing firsthand the interaction of the kids, family members, staff and volunteers as they grow is inspiring and something I am proud to be a part of.”

Chad Williams is our keynote speaker.  He is author of the bestselling book, “SEAL of God.” He shares his journey through the grueling Naval Ops training, illustrating the SEAL mindset and ethos that revolve around leadership, teamwork, integrity, safety, mental toughness, discipline, overcoming adversity and grit. 


Chad entered the military's most difficult and grueling training known as BUD/S. As one of 13 out of a class of 173 trainees, Chad climbed the mountain and earned his Trident, which signifies he had become a Navy SEAL.

According to his website, “Serving his country proudly through multiple deployments on SEAL Teams One and Seven, Chad continued to hone the technical skill, tactical proficiency and attention to detail that our nation's best warriors adhere to.  In an ironic final operation in Iraq, Chad's shares the story of how his SEAL Team was set up on a premeditated ambush similar to the location and scenario that took the life of his mentor Scott Helvenston.  But on that occasion Chad and his Team were victorious, overcoming the enemy and odds set against them.”

Alfredo Padilla is one of KidWorks many amazing student success stories.  He is a recent California State University, Northridge graduate, where he earned his degree in kinesiology. 

Alfredo-laughing - Copy.JPG

Alfredo was part of KidWorks programs from age 11 through high school, and credits our team with helping him to learn healthy eating and exercise habits.  Alfredo turned this passion towards helping others, including serving on the KidWorks’ staff during high school and college.

He organized KidWorks-sponsored fitness and Zumba classes for the moms in the community, managed our gym, led weight training classes for the youth, coached our baseball team and helped manage and train the KidWorks running club for youth and parents. 

This event sells out every year so purchase your ticket early so you don't miss out! 

St. Andrew’s ‘serves up’ special blessings for KidWorks’ students


St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach truly reflects the “servant’s heart” described in the Bible.

Longtime and dedicated supporters of KidWorks, the congregation came together once again in late September as part of St. Andrew’s “Serve Day.”  During this event, 18 volunteers—spanning in age from eight to 60—spent about 100 cumulative hours cleaning, painting, repairing and beautifying our Dan Donahue Center.

Our licensed preschool particularly benefitted from the sprucing up.  A bulletin board was added, the playground pathway was replaced and a mural was repainted.

The St. Andrew’s team also prepared care packages for the KidWorks graduates now attending colleges and universities.

“St. Andrew’s continues to enjoy a multi-faceted ministry partnership with KidWorks,” says Kyle Team, a church leadership elder and member of our board of directors.  “The importance of Serve Day is to send our church members out of the pews and into our communities to become the hands and feet of Jesus.  Not only do the nonprofit partners benefit, but our members experience the joy of true selfless service.”

KidWorks deeply thanks the church volunteers, Kyle and the church leaders who worked with her on the event, Dan Wendell, Minister of Missions and Outreach and Julie Wood, Minister of Missions

Chad Williams Flexes His Muscles For KidWorks


Days before Chad Williams was to report to military duty in Great Lakes, Illinois, he turned on a television and was greeted with the horrifying images of his mentor, US Navy SEAL Scott Helvenston, being brutally murdered in a premeditated ambush on the roads of Fallujah, Iraq. Steeled in his resolve, Chad followed in Scott’s footsteps and completed the US military’s most difficult and grueling training to become a Navy SEAL. One of only 13 from a class of 173 to make it straight through to graduation, Chad served his country on SEAL Teams One and Seven for five years, completing tours of duty in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iraq.  While the taste of success is great, Chad learned the SEAL Team motto of "earn your Trident everyday" which means the SEALs don't rest on their laurels, the training is never really over because they always strive for better! 

Serving his country proudly through multiple deployments on SEAL Teams One and Seven Chad continued to hone the technical skill, tactical proficiency and attention to detail that our nation's best warriors adhere to. In an ironic final operation in Iraq, Chad's shares the story of how his SEAL Team was set up on a premeditated ambush similar to the location and scenario that took the life of his mentor Scott Helvenston but on that occasion Chad and his Team were victorious, overcoming the enemy and odds set against them in a gun battle to the death.   


Today Chad is a bestselling author of his book, SEAL of God and will be speaking at our FFS Luncheon on November 2nd.   Drawing from his experiences as a SEAL, Chad grabs hold of his listeners, illustrating the SEAL mindset and ethos that revolve around leadership, teamwork, integrity, safety, mental toughness, discipline, overcoming adversity and grit. 

For the past three years, the Orange County Business Journal has listed the Foundation for Success event as one of the top five fundraising luncheons—and we expect that trend to continue in 2017.

The Foundation for Success luncheon would not be possible without the generosity of our presenting sponsors:  American Career College, Balboa Bay Club, Caribou Industries & Michael F. Harrah, West Coast University, Heidi & Ruben Mendoza and Toyota Financial Services.  Other key sponsors include Bank of America, Steven L. Craig of Craig Realty Group and Donahue Schriber Realty Group.

"The event sells out each year, so we strongly urge everyone interested in sponsoring the event at the various available levels to act right away so they can be recognized in our promotional materials,” says Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships and Donor Relations.