By Jason KUROSU
Children from schools across the L.A. area packed into Universal Studios on a recent Thursday morning, not only to enter the park and enjoy the attractions and rides, but also to receive much needed clothing and school supplies during the 10th annual Day of Giving. Nearly 250 students arrived at the park during the day and received donations of shoes, socks, jackets, backpacks, books and uniforms, as well as complimentary lunches and a free trip inside Universal Studios.
According to Nancy Gutierrez, coordinator of LAUSD’s Homeless Education Program, over 30 schools participated in the annual event.
“We started with 150 kids at the beginning and have been trying to increase the number each year,” said Gutierrez. “It’s been a good experience.”
Operation School Bell, which includes volunteers from the Anne Banning Auxiliary of Assistance League of Los Angeles, partners yearly with Universal Studios’ Discover a Star Foundation to put on the Day of Giving event. Two hundred Universal Studios employees participated, from handing out backpacks to helping kids try on shoes to helping kids get school uniforms, all of which items were loaded inside Operation School Bell’s semi-truck on the premises.
“It’s important for children who are homeless to be mainstreamed,” said Dorothea Scattaglia, Universal Studios director of Community Relations, who also said that the kids would receive front of the line passes to rides in the theme park, along with the donated items.
Marjorie Knoop, a 27-year employee of Universal Studios, gave out jackets throughout the day.
“It makes you feel great for the help that we’re able to give the kids,” said Knoop.
After the clothing drive and lunch, the kids were able to enter the park and meet with Universal characters, especially the minions from the “Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land” play zone.
Universal Studios volunteers also participated in five other charitable events that day, including events at AIDS Project L.A., the Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home, M.E.N.D.’s Educational Training Center, Shane’s Inspiration and L.A.’s Downtown Women’s Center.
Data from LAUSD’s Homeless Education Program indicates that there are currently over 13,000 homeless students within the Los Angeles Unified School District.