On July 14, a record 360 supporters of the United Boys & Girls Clubs (UBGC) came out to the Bella Vista Ranch and Polo Club in Summerland for the concluding event of the 5th annual Rally 4 Kids: the White Party on the Green.
UBGC operates after-school programming for youth ages 6-18 at club locations in Santa Barbara (Westside), Goleta, Carpinteria, Buellton, and Lompoc and at three school sites. It also operates Camp Whittier. Proceeds from the event will fund outreach programs and expansion in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The 271-mile rally began at Procore in Carpinteria and traversed mountain ranges, forests, and prairies, with a wine tasting stop at Riverbench Winery in Santa Maria and an al fresco lunch at Pine Mountain Club. The rally finished at the UBGC Carpinteria club, where CEO Michael Baker and staff offered tours, as Baker put it, “of where the magic happens.”
Scott and Kristina Perry, who hosted a pre-rally party the night before in their Hope Ranch home, won the rally in their 2007 Porsche Turbo Carrera, based on the poker cards they received at each checkpoint and their answers to trivia questions. Pete Williams and Megan Orloff took second place, and David and Davece Pires placed third.
During the extended reception on the south side of the stables, the stylishly white-attired guests checked out the 60 rally cars, which included Ferraris, Porsches, Jaguars, and a McLaren as well as ordinary vehicles. Guests dined on the picturesque polo field while Bella Electric Strings performed.
During the program, Baker expressed his gratitude to Virgil Elings for an extremely generous donation that Elings recently made for Camp Whittier and for the maintenance and expansion of programs in the Santa Ynez Valley. The donation was for an eye-popping $750,000.
Baker presented the Michael and Anne Towbes Award to Michael and Misty Hammer, who have been the Title Sponsor for all five years and generous supporters of many area organizations. Michael was feeling lucky to be standing there accepting the award. During the rally in his 1954 Lincoln Capri, he and his navigator, Juan Carlo Guerrero, went over a 15-foot cliff, safely landed precisely in the middle of a bridge below, and then drove on to complete the rally. Amazing.
Andrew Firestone lead an entertaining auction in which George Krebs spent more than $15,000 for dessert items, including $7,000 for one dessert, and then gave them all back for re-auction.
In an interview, Baker shared how he came from a very poor family in upstate New York and that this background fuels his passion every day. He feels an absolute duty to help poor kids and never turns one away for an inability to pay the $40 annual club fee. UBGC partners with the Santa Barbara Unified School District to provide healthy meals at the club because he knows how hard it is to concentrate when one is hungry. Eighty-five percent of members live on or below the poverty line and qualify for free breakfast and lunch programs at their schools. At the Santa Barbara Westside club, the figure is 97 percent.
Shortly after taking the helm at UBGC less than four years ago, Baker turned the organization around and eliminated its $800,000 debt. Then last year and this year, UBGC got hit with four devastating events: a February 2017 rainstorm that flooded the Carpinteria clubhouse, requiring a new roof; the July 2017 Whittier Fire, which shut down the camp, a profit center for its club locations, for six months; the Thomas Fire, which caused schools to let out a week and a half early and prompted the ever-dedicated Baker and his staff to open the clubs at 7 am every day to accommodate parents, who could not afford to take time off work; and the 1/9 Debris Flow, which significantly impacted many of UBGC’s major donors and hence, the level of donations. Throughout it all, Baker’s training from his youth of figuring out what he needed to do to survive carried him and UBGC through the challenges. He noted that when you do good things, people help you.
As an aside, Baker related how kids shouldn’t have to be in survival mode, but many of them are through no fault of their own. He shared how he has never met a child who has filed for divorce, committed domestic violence, or committed a felony that prevents him or her from getting public assistance.
Every day at UBGC facilities, members receive homework help and engage in some type of fun physical activity. UBGC partners with other nonprofits for programs in music, art, science and technology, and team sports. Baker related how most of the parents work long hours, so if it weren’t for the clubs, kids would be going home to empty households, and studies show that juvenile crime peaks in the after-school hours.
In a video during the program, Baker explained how every day, about 600 kids come to UBGC facilities, where the goal is to ensure that each youth is on track to graduate from high school on time with a plan for the future: further study, the military, or a job. In concluding, he emphasized that an investment in the United Boys & Girls Clubs will pay dividends for generations to come.
For more info, go to unitedbg.org.
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By Gail Arnold