Students help give back in Simmons’ memory
By Ashley Ratcliff, Peninsula News
August 6, 2009 11:35 AM PDT
Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department, along with Denise
Eastburn, left, and Anne Lemaire, second left, of Providence
Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro thanked
students at the Toberman Learning Center for reading 94,005
pages in memory of slain LAPD SWAT Officer Randal
A group of youngsters now understand the power of
giving, after completing an exercise with twofold benefits — they
pushed themselves to read and their efforts helped their peers in
On July 28, 75 children were honored for their
participation in a Jester & Pharley Phund Read-a-thon, in which
students ages 5 to 10 read 94,005 pages through the Toberman
Neighborhood Center’s after-school program in San Pedro. In turn,
the Crail-Johnson Foundation provided a grant for more than 60
copies of “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” and accompanying dolls to
Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro and the
Los Angeles Police Department.
“It was such an inspiring
event. It was so thrilling to see all the children at Toberman
participate in our program to help other children,” said Barbara
Saltzman, executive director of the Palos Verdes Estates-based
Phund. “It was especially exciting for them to see how grateful the
LAPD was to receive the gift of Jester dolls and books that came
through their efforts in the read-a-thon.”
The Toberman Learning Center students participated
in the challenge throughout the school year in remembrance of
Officer Randal Simmons, who, on Feb. 7, 2008, was the first LAPD
SWAT officer to be killed in the line of duty.
About 12 years
ago, Simmons, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident, began volunteering
with the Phund, distributing Jester treats to at-risk
“He was deeply involved in helping children and the
community, and we have been very honored that we could continue to
remember his work and his humanity by donating Jester books and
dolls in his memory,” Saltzman said.
“His entire life, he
worked to help children develop self-confidence,” she continued. “He
was just filled with life and good spirits, and related beautifully
to children and was a wonderful human being.”
and Denise Eastburn of PLCM, as well as LAPD Commander Andrew Smith
were present on July 28 to thank the students for the
“It’s a fantastic program,” said Smith, a friend of
Simmons’. “Anything that can get kids into reading and away from
television is a great idea. [It] speaks volumes about 5-, 6- and
Toberman’s top readers, along with their
teacher, Cathy McAuley, received “Jester Jingles” certificates. They
are Teryika (2,295 pages), Matthew A. (1,665), Rachel (1,621),
Christopher M. (1,565), Reyna (1,489), Annia (1,307), Guillermo G.
(1,266) and Jonathan R. (1,242).
The LAPD’s South Bureau has
for years given the books and dolls to children who have experienced
tragedy, Smith said.
“The idea behind this whole program is
to boost some kids’ spirits a little bit, when they’re right at the
very bottom and when things look really bad,” he said. “Kids down in
this part of town (San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and Harbor
Gateway) are deprived and underprivileged ... For an officer to give
a kid a book and a doll does a lot. And to be honest with you, maybe
it does a little bit for our police officers, too.”
gifts present the children with something, literally, to hold on to
during difficult times, Saltzman added.
“It gives them very
positive messages and is self-empowering and helps them rediscover
their laughter, which often in the circumstances that police might
find them [in they] might be wanting,” she said.
Has Lost His Jingle” draws parallels from the life of David
Saltzman, the book’s author and Saltzman’s son, who was diagnosed
with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He died in 1990.
“The fact that
[David] was able to complete the book while he was fighting a
life-threatening illness also gives children the strong message that
they not only have the ability to create meaningful legacies, but
that everybody will be remembered for what they do. Tragedy might
befall a family, but [they] can recover from it,” she said. “That
also is the message of Officer Randy Simmons. His family is doing a
lot to keep his legacy alive.”
PLCM also reaps benefits from
the Jester & Pharley Read-a-thon.
Ellen Wise, the PLCM
Foundation’s director of communications, said the hospital for about
10 years has received books and dolls for its pediatric unit, and
tykes treated in the emergency room and the Partners for Healthy
Kids mobile pediatric van.
“The children at the hospital ...
are waiting and wandering. Having a story of hope and laughter truly
can make a difference,” Wise said.
Often, the book and doll
are passed from person to person, spreading the Jester’s and
Pharley’s positive lesson.
“It kind of creates a chain
reaction ... It truly makes a difference,” Wise added.
learn more about the Jester & Pharley Phund, visit http://www.thejester.org/ or
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