Tag Archives: BCR

Burbank Rotary Clubs Bring Santa’s Magic to BCR Clients

“Sorry, I’m late.  The freeway traffic was murder,” explained Santa Claus, making his merry way across the Emmanuel Church gymnasium.  But the BCR clients of BCR A Place To Grow didn’t mind in the least.  They’d been singing holiday carols with their beloved “Pia the elf”, while their bellies were happily digesting a helping or two of Handi Mart’s lasagna.

Sporting a top hat, Emcee Gregory Madore ushered Santa to his special chair by the Christmas tree.  His fellow Rotarians, who were now serving desserts and otherwise bussing the tables, smiled in anticipation. 

Santa called each BCR client by name to come to him.  One by one, they received their present (and goodie bag) and quickly proceeded to eagerly tear off the wrappings.  They proudly displayed their gifts to friends, family, and caregivers.  Somehow, Santa had known exactly what they had wished for! 

“Seeing their faces light up in sheer joy is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season,” said Rotarian Mary Gilbert, the long-time organizer of the annual dinner for BCR clients. 

The festive evening, occurring during the first week of December has also become a favorite holiday tradition of both the Burbank Sunrise and Burbank Noon Rotary clubs.  Club members served dinner to about 100 people this year.

The party concluded with Pia the elf singing more holiday favorites as her BCR fans sang and danced around her. 




Annual Rotary Holiday Dinner Cheers BCR Clients And Their Families


IMG_4187Last week, holiday magic filled the gym at Emmanuel Evangelical Church for over 60 special needs adults served by BCR. They enjoyed an Italian dinner with their families, sang and danced to songs of the season and received presents from Santa himself.

“It’s our favorite night of the year,” said Burbank Rotary Sunrise President Beth Anderson. “Seeing the joy in the faces of BCR clients reminds me of the joy I felt as a child during Christmas.” For Burbank Noon President-Elect Jessa Freemyer, who has a developmentally challenged relative, the holiday event “is near and dear to my heart. Seeing the ecstatic faces of the people when Santa gives them their gifts really means a lot.”

IMG_4166The Gentlemen’s Octet from Burbank High was a musical highlight of the dinner, as well as perennial favorite Piya Tolani, whose spirited singing always gets BCR clients to put on their happy feet. Piya also doubles as Santa’s number one elf when it’s time to pass out the gifts.

The breakfast Rotary club and Burbank Noon Rotary have been putting on the BCR Holiday Dinners the past 20 years. For the past five years Burbank Sunrise Rotarian Mary Gilbert has been the event’s Chairperson, marshalling Santa’s Rotarian helpers to make sure that Santa has something special for every BCR client. Mary became hooked after attending her first BCR Holiday Dinner, when she saw how happy everyone was. “I’ve had a good life. I’ve wanted to give back to the community, and this is the best way to do it.”


BCR Heralds in the Holidays with their Annual Talent Showcase

BCR Tone Chime Choir, produced by Sylvia Nielsen-Ioka, performs "Bells" during the BCR "a place to grow" Holiday Program. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

BCR Tone Chime Choir, produced by Sylvia Nielsen-Ioka, performs “Bells” during the BCR “a place to grow” Holiday Program. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Clients of BCR “a place to grow” heralded the holidays with their annual talent showcase on Wednesday night at St. Francis Xavier Holy Cross Hall.

The center, at 230 E. Amherst St., provides day and extended day activity programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities. They receive instruction in basic academic skills, meal planning along with marketing and cooking, arts and crafts, physical fitness and other life skills that help them to reach their potential, said Executive Director Julie Larsen.

This annual Holiday Program gives the clients a chance to get up and show what they’ve got — they sing, they dance and absolutely love being on stage.

“They adore the applause and the families get such joy out of watching them,” Larsen said.

It is also an opportunity to raise funds. Guests have the chance to participate in a raffle, boutique and bake sale. There is also a silent auction, which is overseen by the Foothill Civitan Club led by President Shirley Witt.

“The proceeds go to enrich the quality of our programs — transportation, field trips, classroom supplies — all sorts of things that make sure we are completing our mission to provide the best programs and assist them in reaching their potential, so they can be citizens not only of their family but also their schools, programs and community,” Larsen said.

Clients learn how to volunteer in the community and just recently competed in bowling and tennis in the Special Olympics.

The center has been producing the Holiday Program for at least 30 years. Clients start rehearsing for the Holiday Program in early October.

“We think the clients receive a sense of empowerment being on stage and being able to be in front of a crowd, which is a huge accomplishment for them,” Larsen said. “We have a client who is watching this year, who is not so comfortable coming up on stage. We had another client who came to watch for four years and now she’s up there dancing and having a great time.”

Mark Nakamura, left, and Ernie Pistacchio, at the microphones, lead clients in "O Holy Night" during the Holiday Program presented by BCR "a place to grow". (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Mark Nakamura, left, and Ernie Pistacchio, at the microphones, lead clients in “O Holy Night” during the Holiday Program presented by BCR “a place to grow”. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

The first act titled “Holiday Blast from the Past” was produced by Karen Delzell and featured clients in the Adult Day Activity Program. The Tone Chime Choir kicked off the act followed by musical selections from the past.

A highlight was the Beach Boys’ tune “Little Saint Nick”. Two of the clients displayed full-size surf boards fashioned out of cardboard and decorated for the holidays. The finale “O Holy Night” was led by clients Ernie Pistacchio and Mark Nakamura with everyone singing along.

The second act found clients in the adult Extended Day Program using a variety of songs to illustrate the title of the segment “Brave”. It was produced by Maria Di Liberto.

A highlight was the song “Lean On Me” featuring clients Franklin Cantero, Jesus Flores, Tony Jackson, Martin Magana, Sarkis Ovakimyan, Michael Perez and Dennis Poulson.

All the cast came together for the finale song Josh Groban’s “Brave”.

Cartoon Network Thanks Community Partners

Cartoon Network’s Director of Operations and Community Relations Zita Lefebvre hosted several community partner representatives at a thank you luncheon at the animation studio’s offices in downtown Burbank on Friday, February 14.

Guests of Zita Lefebvre of Cartoons Networks Valentines Day Lunch include Burbank Police PIO Darin Ryburn and Bonnie Teaford Director of Burbank Public Works. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Guests of Zita Lefebvre and Cartoons Network’s Valentines Day lunch include Burbank Police PIO Sgt. Darin Ryburn and Bonnie Teaford, Director of Burbank Public Works. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Members of the community came out to enjoy the Zita’s hospitality, including Police Chief Scott LaChasse and Sgt. Darin Ryburn of the Burbank Police Department and Bonnie Teaford from Public Works.

Rick Madrid from Paramount, Chris Ramos from the Family Service Agency and Edna Karinski from the Foundation of the Verdugos made an appearance.

Representatives from the Boys and Girls Club, the Burbank Center for the Retarded, the Family Service Agency, Warner Bros. Studios and local Burbank public schools also attended, among others.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Zita Lefebvre and Edna Karinski from the nonprofit Community Foundation of the Verdugos. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I am honored to call them friends. The City has been so amazingly helpful to us and Bonnie Teaford is so responsive and supportive,” commented Lefebvre. “Both the Police and Fire Departments include us in trainings and are our best neighbors.”

“Chris Ramos was here to represent FSA and accepted a check from Edna Karinski from the Foundation of the Verdugos, for a grant I wrote before Christmas,” said Lefebvre.

Cartoon Network funds the Art Therapy Program at the Family Service Agency, which Lefebvre calls “powerful and heart wrenching all at once.”

Former Burbank Police Lt. Rick Madrid, a long time friend of Zita Lafebvre, stopped by to wish all a Happy Valentines Day. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Former Burbank Police Lt. Rick Madrid, a long time friend of Zita Lafebvre, stopped by to wish all a Happy Valentines Day. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Marilyn Collins of Cartoon Network is also a member of the Board of the Burbank Center for the Retarded.

Lefebvre noted the studio tries to “help them in any way we can. We hope to host an art show with drawings from their clients later this year.”

Sherry DeLizia and Brittany Vaughn from Boys and Girls Club worked on a PSA with Lefebvre recently, with help from myBurbank’s Vice President and Chief Photographer Ross Benson.

Cartoon Network volunteers are nearing completion of the PSA which will be screened for the young Boys and Girls Club attendees when finished.

Guests of Zita Lefebvre of Cartoons Networks Valentines Day Lunch. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Guests of Zita Lefebvre enjoy Cartoons Network’s Valentines Day luncheon. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Lefebvre also talked about some of the projects and programs she organizes with local public schools and the Burbank Arts For All Foundation, in which studio animators, artists and production personnel work with children in creating animated shorts and PSAs. Additionally, Cartoon Network reaches out to support local agencies and schools needs, such as the recent planter built for disabled children access at Stevenson Elementary in a partnership with Lowe’s Home Improvement store.

Music and Exercise Renovated at BCR

Burbank Neighborhood Leadership classmates work together to raise funds and in-kind donations of materials and labor to renovate the Music and Exercise Room for BCR ~ “a place to go”. Four BCR groups use the room on a rotation basis every day for music appreciation, exercise and to rehearse singing and dancing for their annual holiday program.


By Joyce Rudolph


The Burbank Neighborhood Leadership Program illustrated the true meaning of team work when classmates unveiled the renovated Music and Exercise Room at BCR ~ “a place to grow” during a ribbon-cutting celebration on May 15.

BCR "A Place to Grow" clients view the new television in the updated gym and music room (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

About a dozen participants are selected in the fall and begin meeting in January once a week for workshops that are educational, interactive and experimental. The class culminates with a graduation ceremony in June, said Viviana Ardila, community resources coordinator with the city of Burbank and supervisor of the leadership class. The leadership program is part of the Connect with Your Community Initiative and Burbank’s Park, Recreation, and Community Services Department.

The purpose is to enhance personal and interpersonal skills while building future community leaders. One of the requirements is for the team to complete a community project, Ardila said

Burbank Neighborhood Leadership Program unveiled the refurbished gym and music room for BCR "A Place to Grow" on Tuesday, May 15. Client Arbeh Mivzakhanian tries out the step machine as his mother Hasmik and father Artoush watch. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

“The role of this project beside doing something positive for this community is for the students to put into practice all leadership skills and lessons that we teach them on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said.

Project chair Elle Fernandez said there were 13 people who worked on the project for three months, coming up with a budget and a design, then raising funds and doing the work themselves or securing in-kind help and donations from community businesses.

“Our hope is that the design is not just beautiful but practical,” she said.

The group raised $2,300 with two events, she said, a Coffee and Doughnut sale and a Picnic Around the World in which members cooked a special dish that represented the country they were from originally and sold tickets to family and friends. They also raised more than $1,600 in in-kind donations of labor and materials.

“Every member of the team put not only their heart but their special and unique personality and ability into the project. And, we did it!” she said. “I am very proud of all of you and it was an honor to work with you.”

The team patched the holes in the walls, added a chair rail and painted the walls. Members also updated the sound proof covers and purchased exercise equipment, yoga balls, a sound system, exercise mats, a flat-screen TV and wii system that will lead clients in exercise inside when it is too hot to exercise during the summer.

BCR is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that began in 1963 and provides day activities and extended day care programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities — mental retardation, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral-palsy, seizure disorders and other disabling conditions. Clients come from Burbank, Glendale, the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles County.

Lonna Dunson, executive director of BCR "A Place to Grow", and parent Sadie Fudil take a look at the refurbished gym and music room. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Four groups use the room on a rotating basis every day, said Lonna Dunson, BCR executive director. They exercise, listen to music played on the piano and rehearse for their annual holiday program in the room.

“The leadership class did so much more than we ever dreamed of,” Dunson said. “They were resourceful in knowing who to contact to get things done, were efficient and are just nice people to work with.”

Maria Diliberto, program supervisor at BCR, thought the change was “fabulous”.

“I think that the clients always deserve the best,” she said. “And the more they are able to do here, the more self-confidence they have going out into the community.”

For more information on the Burbank Neighborhood Leadership Program, call Viviana Ardila at (818) 238-5322. To contact BCR, call (818) 843-4907.