On September 18, more than 630 guests gathered for the 29th annual Salute to Youth Gala and fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Emceed by ABC7 Reporter Adrienne Alpert, the evening recognized the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation’s outstanding young people, longtime supporters Los Angeles County Sheriff John L. Scott and Toyota Motor Sales, USA, and the vast network of deputies, volunteers and donors who make the programs possible.
Featuring dance and vocal performances by Youth Activities League participants, a silent auction and presentations, the Salute to Youth Gala is the SYF’s primary fundraiser, supporting its seven programs that reach thousands of children in L.A. County per year. That outreach includes the 999 for Kids program, which provides special equipment to medically fragile, abused children; the STAR program, which teaches drug, gang and violence prevention in schools; and the many academic, mentoring and recreational opportunities provided by the Youth Activities League centers.
Sheriff Scott received the Community Champion award for his lifetime of service to the residents of L.A. County and his ongoing support of the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation’s programs. Chris Reynolds, group vice president and chief legal officer of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, accepted the Corporate Champion award on behalf of the company for both its national charitable commitments and its 15-year partnership and board participation with the organization.
“It is one thing to support an organization financially — and yet a larger commitment when time and energy is also devoted to the success of our organization and its programs,” said Lieutenant A.J. Rotella, executive director of the SYF, about Toyota’s contributions.
Accepting his award on behalf of the entire Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), Sheriff Scott attested to having personally witnessed, over the course of his 45-year career, the positive community impact of the SYF’s programs as part of LASD’s crime prevention model. He described how the former Firestone Sheriff’s Station, where he worked in the 1970s, is now a robust youth services center that served nearly 500 children per day last summer.
“Your Sheriff’s Department has worked diligently to bring the crime rates in this county to the lowest level in decades. We accomplish this through the significant partnership that we have with our community,” he told the crowd. “The simple truth is that we cannot maintain this success rate without investing in the children and the future of our community.”
Seventeen standout youths from across the county were recognized for their achievements at the ceremony, including honorees from 15 of the strategically placed 16 YAL centers (Avalon YAL on Catalina Island was the only center without representatives in attendance, for logistical reasons), and the VIDA and STAR programs. Thanks to the evening’s generous sponsors, each youth honoree went home with a backpack filled with school supplies, a brand-new laptop and a $1,000 scholarship.
“It has changed me as a person from inside and out,” said Norwalk youth honoree Isabel Alaniz in a videotaped presentation, describing how the YAL program has given her self-confidence, boosted her self-esteem and helped her get over her stage fright in talking to people.
“This is just a small sampling of the great work that takes place each and every day through our programs,” said Lieutenant Rotella. “These success stories are only possible because of the men and women who dedicate their lives and their careers to the thousands of children who are served through our programs.”
Meet this year’s youth honorees and hear their experiences with the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation.
Learning the Fine Points of Dining Etiquette
Since 2003, the SYF Salute to Youth gala has been held at the Beverly Hilton, with Assistant Director of Catering Paul Dreher (pictured below, far right) heavily involved in both the organization of the event and preparing the young participants for their big night.
Lamenting what he calls a nationwide decline in table manners and etiquette since the 1960s, Dreher is intent on changing that trend — one group of young people at a time. Prior to the gala dinner, he teaches everything from chivalry for the boys to lessons for all in table settings, utensil use, the timing of different courses, the proper way to eat specific food items, and the respectful way to treat serving staff, using his own PATY (please and thank you) system.
“What I teach is not just something for today,” says Dreher. “It is a total life lesson.” He encourages his students to listen and practice, assuring them that if they do, they’ll never be uncomfortable in a formal setting — even if they are invited to the White House.
Dreher’s teaching style is to provide a safe atmosphere, encourage questions and make learning fun. “Where I get the biggest ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ is when I show them how to fold a napkin into a bird of paradise,” he says.
Dreher says the children have been very receptive, and he has gotten positive feedback from parents about what their kids have learned. But the biggest reward comes on show night.
“I go by and see what they’re doing,” he says. “They always have big smiles on their faces.”