By Agnes CONSTANTE
Gangs in the San Fernando Valley have long been a problem and to help address the issue, the San Fernando Valley Coalition on Gangs, Pacific Outdoor Living and the Los Angeles Police Department sponsored an event that offered information and ways to prevent gang infiltration.
On Saturday – which was also Children’s Day – the groups hosted an expo in Woodley Park that provided information for adults and fun activities for kids.
“The whole reason for this event is to provide resources for parents to help their kids stay out of gangs,” said Sandy Kievman, a member on the committee of the San Fernando Valley Coalition.
More than 80 resource booths were available, with information about opportunities for kids in dance, sports, drama, music, education and other areas.
The event ran from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and even in the final hour a steady stream of patrons continued entering the gates of Woodley Park.
With the weather in the 70s, children were nothing but eager to participate in the Children’s Day celebration. The Radio Disney stage was a popular destination for youngsters, many of whom participated in hula-hoop and dance contests with much zest.
Other attractions at the park included more than 20 food trucks and carnival rides.
Organizers and those at information booths were positive about the day’s turnout. Among those satisfied was Martha Gonzalez, a member of Herbalife, a nutrition and weight management company. She estimated between 150 to 200 people stopped by the booth by late afternoon.
Because the event was geared toward gang prevention, Gonzalez shared her thoughts on the issue.
“The more you put your kids into any sports and after-school programs, that’s the best way to keep them out of gangs,” she said.
The Los Angeles Kings Valley Ice Center was also at a booth on Saturday. The center offers hockey, ice-skating lessons and other family-friendly activities that kids can get involved in to keep busy.
While there are many alternatives to gang involvement, Lloyd Eisler, director of skating operations at the ice center, said gangs are an ongoing issue.
“I think we have great law enforcement,” said Eisler. “[Gangs] are something we’re always going to have to deal with, but the more aware we are of the problem, the better we can deal with them.”
Booths pertaining to education were also at the gang prevention event, including Among the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project, a non-profit program devoted to developing literacy.
“I know a lot of people are looking for free tutoring,” said Sophia Nguessan, the lead tutor of the program. “A lot of kids are having issues with reading comprehension.”
Nguessan said she had gathered four pages of contact information of parents interested in the program by late afternoon on Saturday.
It was clear from the energy and enthusiasm of the kids that they enjoyed themselves at the Children’s Day celebration, but it was also fun and informative for parents.
“If this can do anything to prevent gangs and violence, I’m all for it,” said Terri Mickel, a parent and Van Nuys resident.