Tag Archives: Family Service Agency

“DIVERSITY” Show Set To Raise Funds For Family Service Agency

After the success of the November 2017 show, DIVERSITY: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle returns with a new cast and set of stories for a performance on Wednesday evening, February 27, at The Colony Theatre.

“I am excited to bring this group of irresistible and gutsy storytellers to The Colony Theatre for this one-night-only show,” commented Suzanne Weerts, JAM Creative Founder and Producing Artistic Director. “Their stories are as diverse as their life experiences, but I personally find either something I can relate to or something I am grateful to now understand having heard them share their vivid perspectives.”

“As rushed as we often are in our lives and as bombarded as we can be by information overload, I find it so worthwhile to sit for an hour and a half and just listen. Listen to Peter Skrabak’s beautiful guitar. Listen to the voices of storytellers who dare to share true tales from their lives. Listen to people who make us laugh at our misconceptions and make us think about how we can be more open-hearted going forward.”

The cast of the 2019 show includes: Maia Akiva, Lawrence Dotson, Jules Ford, Candace Nicholas-Lippman, Jenny Mosley, Oscar Sagastume, Ellen Switkes, Lan Tran, Janette Valenzo and Betty Yee.

The cast of the 2019 “DIVERSITY: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle” share their perspectives at The Colony Theatre on Wednesday, February 27. (Photo By Ross Benson)

Burbank resident Skrabak plays guitar from 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. to open the event. Proceeds from the 90-minute show benefit Family Service Agency. Weerts’ events have raised nearly $12,000 to date for FSA.

“I hope that people walk away from the DIVERSITY show feeling we’ve watered a seed of change within them,” commented Ford. “Hearing the powerful, relatable stories from these people with so many different perspectives may just wake up a part of them to make them feel more connected with others, regardless of their race, gender, or identity. We’re all people, and we’re all in this together.”

“I know that coming to terms with having a child who doesn’t behave along expected gender norms can confuse or even scare some parents,” Ford added. “My hope is that those parents that recognize themselves in my story will be able to reach out to their LGBTQIA kid with love and compassion, recognizing and accepting their truth, especially if they haven’t yet taken that step themselves.”

“PROGRESS is what excites me most being in a show celebrating this theme, a show celebrating, honoring, and listening to stories from individuals of all different backgrounds, races and ethnicities,” said Nicholas-Lippman. “It’s a chance for us to begin to really understand one another instead of using preconceived notions, stereotypes, etc. to pass judgment. This show offers the space for a conversation to occur. And that is progress.”

“Through DIVERSITY, Suzanne is offering a platform for the conversation to be had,” she added. “It really just takes a conversation. My hope is simple… an understanding. Hate, prejudice, racism, etc., all stem from a lack of understanding. Because people don’t take the time to talk to one another, to listen, to educate themselves on those who look different than them…hate creeps in due to ignorance or lack of understanding.”

The cast of the 2019 “DIVERSITY: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle” share their perspectives at The Colony Theatre on Wednesday, February 27. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“Having the opportunity to raise money and awareness about the valuable work done in our community by Family Service Agency is important to me,” Weerts added. “FSA provides mental health counseling for students in all BUSD schools.”

“They work with victims, families and perpetrators of domestic violence as well as provide support for veterans, homeless families and foster youth. Challenges with mental health and mental illness cross all gender, racial, and cultural lines. Everyday, the dedicated therapists at FSA are working to ensure that the stories they hear can result in happy endings.”

“This show demonstrates that even though we are different we are all people who are trying to make our way through life the best way we can, with the challenges we face,” said Akiva. “The piece I’m sharing is a big part of my personal healing story and it’s very empowering to share it and be honest and vulnerable and not hide the parts of my life I am challenged with. My journey is another side of what people who are confused about their (gender) identity, go through.”

“The most empowering (and I do not use this word often) instrument we each possess is our personal story,” added Yee, who currently serves as California State Controller. “Unique and owned by each of us that no one can take away, our personal stories have the power to help us find the ties that bring us together, affirming time and time again we are of one common humanity.”

Tickets for DIVERSITY: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle are $25 for general admission and can be purchased in advance here or at the box office ahead of the show. More information about the show can be found here.

The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank. Parking is available in the adjacent parking structure.

“Momnipresent” Storytelling Show Raises Funds For Family Service Agency

Ten Los Angeles storytellers gather for Momnipresent, a collection of true stories of mothers and motherhood, at The Colony Theatre on Sunday evening, May 6. Proceeds from the show will go to support Burbank’s Family Service Agency.

“I’ve been sharing my own stories on stages across Los Angeles for several years now and I’ve always appreciated the connections that are made by revealing our own truths, whether they be a funny experience or something more challenging but relatable,” commented director and producer Suzanne Weerts. “And in our modern, often disconnected world, it is a powerful thing just to sit and listen.”

MOMNIPRESENT Rehearsal at Colony (Photo by© Ross A Benson)

“I’m thrilled to be giving our cast of ten wonderful storytellers the opportunity to bring their beautiful stories to the Burbank stage and to wow our audience with their humor and vulnerability. No doubt there will be several stories that will particularly resonate with each person in the theater.”

Suzanne Weerts (Photo by© Ross A Benson)

“Supporting the important work that Family Service Agency has been doing in our community for the past 65 years makes this benefit show all the more meaningful to me and to our cast,” Weerts added.

“We all recognize the importance of mental health care and want to ensure that the many people who use FSA’s services will be able to change the narrative in their own lives due in small part to the money that we raise.”

Local musicians Connie Nassios and Ken Berry will play a set in advance of the storytellers taking the stage.

Local musicians Connie Nassios and Ken Berry at MOMNIPRESENT rehearsal. (Photo by© Ross A Benson)

“In many ways, the journey of motherhood feels like improvisational acting on a world stage,” said college professor and storyteller, Ryane Nicole Granados. “For this reason, I love the idea of gaining inspiration and courage from other moms as we share our stories of motherhood in Momnipresent.”

“Instead of the critical eyes of society or self-imposed criticism from ourselves, for one night I look forward to giving my fellow mamas the round of applause they all deserve!”

Weerts returns on June 3 to The Colony Theatre with a new cast of storytellers sharing tales of fatherhood for Manecdotes. Folk musician Robert Fisher Morgan opens that show.

General admission tickets are $25 each and available here.

MOMNIPRESENT Rehearsal at Colony (Photo by© Ross A Benson)

Burbank Bike Angels Celebrates 9th Holiday Seasonal Event

On Wednesday, December 13th, the Burbank Bike Angels celebrated their 9th Holiday seasonal event on Olive Avenue. During the event, the Burbank Bike Angeles showcased more than one hundred restored bikes, each meant for a less fortunate child living in Burbank.

The bikes were set along the steps of City Hall and were distributed in just in time for the holiday season. The bikes were distributed through local non-profit organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Family Service Agency, the Salvation Army, and Penny Lane. Having done this for nine years now, the Burbank Bike Angels estimate that they have restored over 1,500 bikes.

In attendance for the event were the Burbank Bike Angels’ director, volunteers, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Burbank City Council Members, the City Manager, and representatives from the Salvation Army.

The bikes are gathered throughout the year in various conditions. Upon receiving the bike, community members, volunteers, and those associated with the program spend months cleaning, repairing, and getting each bike into a condition that makes the bike new again.


If you are interested in donating a bike, you can call (818)-238-3900, or you can drop it off Monday through Friday at the Burbank Recycling Center at 500 S. Flower Street.

If you are interested volunteering to repair bikes, you are encouraged to call (818) 238-5286, or simply attend one of the work days, which are scheduled for Wednesdays and Saturdays during the months of September through December.

To make a monetary donation, which will go directly toward the purchasing of parts, please call (818) 238-5286.


“Diversity” Show Raises Funds For Family Service Agency

Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle appears at The Colony Theatre on Monday, November 13, for a one-night-only show. A collection of true stories told live on stage, Diversity runs the gamut from the humorous to the poignant. All proceeds from the performance benefit Burbank’s Family Service Agency.

Produced and directed by Burbanker Suzanne Weerts, Diversity showcases live music by Burbank resident and award-winning guitarist Peter Skrabak and the irreverent country-comedy duo Mommy Tonk.


Storytellers Hedia Anvar, Katsy Chapell, Megan Dolan, Carlos Lacamara, Liza Marquez, Janora McDuffie, Horus Ra, Lila Lee Silvern and Suzanne Skrabak share their interesting and often hilarious takes on experiences with immigration, interracial marriage, racism, neurodiversity and cultural challenges, according to Weerts.

“After several years of performing in/sharing my stories on stages across Southern California in other people’s shows, I decided to produce my own,” commented Weerts. “In 2016 and 2017, I co-produced/co-directed the two sold out Listen To Your Mother shows at The Colony Theatre as benefits for FSA.”

“Through those shows, we were able to raise over $6000 for FSA while raising awareness for their important work in the community,” she went on to say.

“As Family Service Agency prepares to celebrate their 65th Anniversary in Burbank in 2018, it is all the more important that their work with the mental healthcare and preventative programs on 19 Burbank campuses, the three long-term transitional shelters and support programs for battered women and their children and homeless families be recognized and celebrated.”

“Every person who connects with FSA has a story, and often times ones that involves seemingly insurmountable challenges. The meaningful work done by FSA in counseling and mental health services is always aimed toward ensuring those stories have positive outcomes.”

“Productions like Diversity and Listen To Your Mother use the time-honored tradition of storytelling to get people talking about similarities in our experiences and the challenges we all face and help us to see how more alike we are than different.”

“I wanted to bring Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle to the stage because my heart has been so heavy in the wake of divisive rhetoric in our country,” added Weerts. “When we put out the call for submissions, we had no idea what kind of stories we’d receive. And certainly the show has taken a different form than I might have predicted with tales that are brilliant, surprising, heartbreaking and hilarious.”

Weerts expressed gratitude for story curators Marsha Ramos, Dan Tirman and Stan Sellers, who helped select the stories, and Jennifer Hughes for graphic design. She also noted the Burbank Human Relations Council is a sponsor of the show, “knowing the value of promoting understanding and cooperation among the diverse groups that compose our community.”

The show is supported by JAM Creative and is also sponsored by Cusumano Real Estate Group, Alisa Cunningham Properties, Universal Studios Hollywood, Volpei Gussow Real Estate Group, Color Images and Susy Shearer Photography.

Diversity: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle has one show at The Colony Theatre on Monday, November 13, at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available in advance here. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank, with ample free parking available on site.

FSA Awards Michael and Caroline Cusamano With the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award

In early October the Family Service Agency awarded Michael and Caroline Cusumano in their 2017 Vision Awards ceremony. During the night, the FSA honored the Mary Alice O’Connor 2015 Vision Award Recipients and celebrated the emotional support, psychological, and social well-being of Burbank’s youth.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

The Family Service Agency was founded in 1953 by a Burbank Unified School District School Psychologist and a group of community leaders. Currently, the FSA operates in 20 school campuses, including 19 BUSD schools and one private school.

The agency specializes in therapy, but also offers individual youth and adult therapy sessions, couples therapy, and family therapy. The agency also maintains a Veteran’s Group, a Depression and Anxiety Group, a Battered Women’s Survivor Group, and a Teen/Parent Substance Abuse group.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

The agency also offers comprehensive free services for foster, homeless, and high-risk youth and their families. This includes a 24-hour comprehensive support program aimed at servicing adult and child survivors of domestic abuse. 99% of their staff holds 4-year degrees, with 92% holding advanced degrees, and 96% providing direct client care.

FSA currently operates 3 long-term transitional shelters for battered women and children, homeless families, and emancipated youth and young adults respectively. Their estimated value of care stands at $4.9 million dollars (2015-2016 fiscal year), regardless of their actual budget being $1.4 million dollars. The FSA has also served 4,794 clients.

After the ceremony, I had a chance to speak with Michael Cusmano about the award and the Family Service Agency.

Interview with Michael Cusmano

After the event, I had a chance to speak to Michael Cusmano about the award and what the public can do to help.

First off, congratulations to you and Caroline on your award. Obviously, the work put into maintaining emotional, psychological, and social well-being support never ends. Having impacted so many lives up until this point, what can you and Caroline say about what this award means to the both of you? 

This recognition is especially meaningful to us because it is in honor of Mary Alice O’Connor, and she was such inspirational leader for so many people here in Burbank. It is an honor to caring on her legacy.

How can citizens of Burbank, previously unaware of the FSA, help the FSA in pursuit of their mission in helping our citizens? 

The most direct way that people can help FSA execute their mission is by making donations directly to the organization; they are a 501c3 non-profit and all gifts are 100% tax deductible.

What inspired you and Caroline to start helping? And what continues to inspire the both of you? 

Caroline and I have been involved in charitable and community work for decades, and we were initially inspired by the community work and commitment that my parents and grandmother demonstrated as we were growing up;  After that, it’s the impact of the work that continues to inspire us. When you see how your participation in the community can make a difference, change lives, it inspires to do more, and more.

Proceeds from the event went to FSA’s Burbank School-Based Counseling Program and FSA’s Residential Youth Counseling Program.

Click on any picture to see a larger view:


Tenth Annual Care Walk Returned to Johnny Carson Park This Year

     The 10th Annual Family Service Agency of Burbank’s (FSA) Care Walk was held April 1st at the beautifully renovated Johnny Carson Park. Approximately 350 participants walked the 5 K course around the park.

Participants included school teams, School Board Members, City Council Members, City Officials and numerous individuals of all ages enjoying a little physical fitness. After the walk, participants received a Care Walk tee shirt, a medal commemorating the event and a complimentary tasty breakfast provided by Command Performance Catering.

During the morning activities, walkers were entertained by Dr. John Whitener’s Jordan Jazz Band and the National Anthem was performed by student Elizabeth Kundibekian.

This year the honoree who received the Jeri Buliavac Award was long time community supporter, Ray Adams. Michael Hastings once again provided his talents as Master of Ceremonies and conducted numerous interviews with the participants. Ross Benson generously provided the public address system.

     The Principal of John Burroughs’ High School, Deborah Madrigal, presented a generous $5,300 check to FSA’s Care Walk.

Sponsors included: the Hollywood Burbank Airport; Nickelodeon; Tony’s Darts Away; Burbank Water and Power; Ray and Bonnie Adams; Burrtec; Sunrise Rotary; Tom and Diana Wong; Community Chevrolet; Elise Sterns-Niesen; Burbank Town Center; Captain Audio; the Reinke Family; the Vitamin Shoppe; and Supervisor Kathryn Barger of  L.A. County’s 5th District. Participants also were able to visit the exhibitor booths to obtain information and free gifts.

     Numerous volunteers assisted with making this event a great success. In addition to numerous individuals, volunteer groups from Providence High School, the Charity League, the Youth Board, the Community Day School and the South Keyclub provided valuable service insuring that the event ran smoothly.

     All the proceeds from this annual event go to help support the no-cost school on-site counseling programs, which last year served 2000 Burbank Unified School District students, providing 12,000 hours of mental health assistance. Laurie Bleick, Executive Director of FSA and the members of the Event Committee are very grateful for all of the support and participation this event received. A good time was had by all while supporting a great cause. 

Family Service Agency’s Art Therapy Program Prepares for this Years Art Show

Last year’s Art Auction in support of Family Service Agency’s Art Therapy Program was a tremendous success. It raised over $30,000 to help kids who’ve experienced traumatic life events to build hope and dream once again.

Hosted by Cartoon Network, the June 3rd event will auction off over 150 pieces of art from over 100 artists.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Event Chair, Zita Lefebvre, scoured the city searching for artists to donate their pieces to the cause. Ceramics, photographs, intricate paper sculptures, jewelry, cel art, and signed books are just a few of the treasures up for grabs. Some donators of note include two-time Emmy-Award winning animator and Supervising Producer of We Bare Bears Randy Myers, Eric Robles, creator of Fanboy and Chum Chum, Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, award-winning writer and illustrator Dan Krall, and Emmy-Award winning animator Ernie Gilbert, among others.

The event takes place on Friday, June 3rd, starting at 5:30pm. The auction will take place over a wine and cheese reception, followed by a rooftop dinner. To reserve your tickets, visit www.fsahealingarts.com or call 818-845-7671.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)



Three Honored by Family Service Agency

Judging by the smiles, everyone had a great time at the “Imagine a City” dinner benefiting the counseling services provided by Family Service Agency of Burbank at all public schools.

The biggest grins were worn by those packing their cars with silent auction gifts just outside the gate of Providence High School.

The highlight of the Oct. 3rd event was the presentation of the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award to the Luis Lara Family, Alan Arzoian and Gary Bric. They were honored for giving to their community time and time again.

 Honorees  this year were Gary Bric , Alan Arzoian and The Luis Lara Family, (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Honorees this year were Gary Bric , Alan Arzoian and The Luis Lara Family, (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mike Flad kept the program moving at high velocity. After introducing dignitaries, he worked with Michael Hastings and Anja Reinke inspiring folks to lift their bidding paddles to pledge donations — and thousands of dollars came in.

Tables were packed with past and present city and school officials including new Superintendent of Schools Matt Hill who announced that a room at Burbank High School has been renovated as a counseling center for students and their families with services provided by Family Service counselors.

Agency Executive Director Laurie Bleick thanked everyone for supporting the event saying “We can’t do this work without you!”

There were about 350 guests and proceeds exceeded all previous years’ fundraising efforts, Bleick said, which is much needed given the expanded services at Burbank High School.

Not only was the evening a chance to honor three outstanding community members but to support the emotional, psychological and social well being of this city’s youth. The agency was founded in 1953 and the four words that explain its purpose are Counseling, Preventing, Educating and Advocating.

Speaking during the evening is Michael Cusumano President of Cusumano Real Estate Group. ( Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Speaking during the evening is Michael Cusumano President of Cusumano Real Estate Group. ( Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Michael Cusumano of the Cusumano Real Estate Group in Burbank recalled how his partnership with Family Service came about in 2007 when he received a call from board member Marsha Ramos asking him for help securing a permanent office space. That facility became a realty in 2008.

“I didn’t realize the thousands of hours of counseling the agency provides to the youth in our community,” he said. “It’s the only organization offering this kind of service in the community.”

They are dealing with the most uncomfortable issues and because of the confidentiality, specifics of what the agency does cannot be shared, so theirs are quiet successes — saving families and rescuing people at risk, he said.

“Laurie and her board and her volunteers make a huge difference in this community and that’s why we are glad to be one of their supporters and that is why we are asking you to support them as well tonight,” he said.

Luis Lara and his family were being honored for providing the meal each year for the Imagine a City dinner through their Command Performance catering business.

Agency board member Eric Hansen listed Lara family’s many contributions to the community, including preparing meals for events held by Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life and the Burbank Fire Department’s Special Olympics dinner.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Hansen met Luis Lara when the family started donating 100 Thanksgiving meals for the city’s Senior Nutrition Program’s Home Delivered Meals program.

“The entire family helped in the preparation and packaging of those meals and it’s a true team effort! It’s a joy to watch them working together laughing and joking,” Hansen said. “The Lara family is always generous with their time … and provides service with a caring attitude.”

For the past four years, the family has prepared 50 Thanksgiving meals for the Family Service Agency clients as well as 350 pancake breakfasts for Burbank CareWalk participants. They also sponsor a back-to-school barbecue each September for Family Service Agency youth clients and their families.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

After Lara introduced all his family members, he thanked the agency for his honor.

“I feel so happy,” he said. “I’m proud to help the community!”

Flad touted Alan Arzoian and his Handy Market for continued support of all the organizations in town. Flad teased him about never wanting to take credit for any of his charitable efforts.

“You are a part of what makes Burbank special,” Flad said. “We are so lucky to have you in our community. It’s a pleasure to know you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and congratulations on receiving the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award.”

Arzoian thanked the agency for the award but added “Everyone in this room deserves this award. I don’t do anymore than anyone else here. I’m just very proud and humbled to be here tonight.”

He introduced his family attending including his wife Karen.

Congressman Adam Schiff, a past recipient, presented the Vision award to Gary Bric. Schiff acknowledged the countless hours made by Mary Alice O’Connor to improve the community, especially in the arts and for military veterans, and called her “an incredible force for good.”

Schiff lauded Gary Bric for working tirelessly for the city as a City Council member and mayor, Burbank High graduate and business owner of Gary Bric’s Ramp.

“He never hesitates donating his time and food and drinks for nonprofit events,” he said. “He’s a straight-shooter and always puts his heart and soul into everything he does.”

Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Bric thanked Schiff for his contributions to the country and to the city of Burbank. Bric also complimented the other two award recipients. Being a restaurant owner, he knows what a strong commitment Luis Lara makes in providing meals to many charity events in town. And to Alan Arzoian, he said, there’s no mistaking Handy Market’s contributions — just look at the line that stretches three blocks long of people waiting for barbecued meals every Saturday.

Bric thanked his family and wife Shelley for being there and supporting him and finally he thanked Laurie Bleick and the board of directors and staff.

“They are the ones responsible for putting this on, so a big round of applause for them,” Bric said.

To see a complete gallery click this link: FSA Gala Pictures from Ross A. Benson Photography

Three to Receive Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award Saturday

Three businessmen will receive the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award at the Family Service Agency’s annual “Imagine a City” dinner on Saturday at Providence High School.

The award is named for Burbank’s most revered volunteer, Mary Alice O’Connor, who passed way in 2010. O’Connor was devoted to providing community service in many areas, but especially as a founding board member of the Family Service Agency. The board of directors continues to honor her memory by recognizing those who do extraordinary work in the community.

Gary Bric

Gary Bric

Those being honored are Gary Bric, owner of The Ramp restaurant. Bric provides the beverages for each Imagine a City dinner and tends bar throughout the evening. Alan Arzoian owns Handy Market, a major sponsor of the agency’s annual art show. The Luis Lara Family owns Command Performance catering, which provides the meal for the Imagine a City dinner.

“They represent what Mary Alice O’Connor stood for –giving back to the community,” said Laurie Bleick, Family Service Agency executive director.

Alan Arzoian

Alan Arzoian

Funds raised go to mental health counseling provided daily at all 18 schools in the Burbank Unified School District. The number of counselors employed runs between 45 and 50 every year.

“We touched the lives of over 2,000 students last year,” she said. “If people come to the event, they will learn all about the vital work we are doing.”

There is a greater demand for mental health counseling in the schools than there are financial resources, she said.

Luis Lara

Luis Lara

“So we depend on this event to raise a significant portion of our budget to provide this program throughout the year,” she said. “We really rely on the community to support our efforts and hope everybody will come out.”

Former city manager Mike Flad will be master of ceremonies. He is a past recipient of the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award as is Rep. Adam Schiff, who will attend the dinner and be an award presenter, Bleick said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Laurie Bleick with past winner Mike Flad. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Recipients will be presented with a dove statue that was handmade by artist and art therapist Terre Bridgham at the Walt Disney Art Therapy Studio at the Family Service Agency of Burbank.

“The statues are all made individually so they are all unique,” Bleick said. “This year the color is a pearl white.”

Several high-end prizes will be up for grabs during the evening. There will be a special drawing for an Apple Watch. Prizes for the silent auction include a one-week stay at The Cliffs at Princeville on the island of Kauai, JetBlue tickets to anywhere the airline flies in the United States and a three-night stay at any WorldMark resort.

For tickets, call (818) 845-7671 or visit www.imagineacity.com

Family Service Agency Creates Awareness For Program

Event organizers increased awareness of an art therapy program while raising funds for it during an auction and dinner on Friday night.

It was the third art auction to benefit Family Service Agency’s Healing Arts therapy program at Cartoon Network in Burbank. Welcoming guests were the agency’s Executive Director Laurie Bleick, co-chairs Marsha Ramos and Zita Lefebvre and host Brian Miller, senior vice president and general manager of Cartoon Network and a member of the agency’s board of directors.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Family Service is really an amazing agency and my hope is to raise awareness for the agency,” Miller said. “We’ve had a great turnout and it’s been a success!”

More than 140 artworks donated by local animators and fine artists were up for bid in the silent auction during the reception on the first floor of the Burbank animation studio. Guests headed up to the rooftop for a breathtaking view of the city and the buffet dinner of Mexican favorites like tamales and soft taco carnitas.

Three artists, who are also authors, received the Spotlight Award and signed their books. They are Alice Asmar, who paints in acrylics, oils, pen and ink and pastels; Nancy Rae, who creates Chinese brush paintings; and Tom Warburton, animator, producer, writer and designer, best known for creating the animated television series “Codename: Kids Next Door”.

Asmar was delighted to receive the Spotlight Award because she once served on the Family Service Agency’s board of directors and knew of the great work they do providing counseling to individuals and families.

“I’ve sent people over to the agency from the senior center who were having family problems,” Asmar said. “I told them ‘go over to Family Service Agency — they are great!”

Animators rarely show their work in a gallery setting, so Warburton was enthusiastic about having his work in a show alongside other artists he admires, he said.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“So to have your work up on the walls it’s really cool,” he said. “It’s great to be amongst so many other people’s artwork. In the big room now they’ve got all these people I work with and all these sketches they did and there is some pottery and just a great mix of artwork that’s raising money for this amazing charity.”

Proceeds will go to Family Service Agency’s Healing Arts therapy program that focuses on young victims of abuse, Lefebvre said.

“It is an amazing program to help people who have such deep pain they cannot verbalize it, ” she said.

Some of those who are in the program are kids who have been sexually molested.

“They can’t talk about it and have been told not to talk about it — no body would believe it,” Lefebvre said. “As they sit and draw it during a therapy session, it gives the therapist a handle on how to move forward and treat them. It’s an unbelievable tool for the therapist to help these kids to start a healing process.”

The cause hit close to home with Moorpark artist Darla Marino, who signs her work with the name Darino. The art piece she had in the show was a collage made of spices and herbs. She calls it “Spiceherba”. It features a moon kissing the sun and is done in white clay, Moroccan red clay, turmeric, chalk, charcoal, peppermint, lavender, chamomile and Sedona cathedral rock sand along with handmade paper from Nepal.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I started out in my garage doing paintings not knowing that I would later be diagnosed with bipolar and art is pretty much the only reason why I’m here because I was able to get it out and express myself when I didn’t know what was happening to me,” Marino said.

“And so this the Family Service Agency healing arts program hits home and it means so much to me to be a part of this. I’m so happy to be here and to be here with my daughter Stephanie. We are surrounded by memories of her childhood — Codename (Kids Next Door) — it’s perfect. This is a night I will always remember.”

When Marino first started painting, she said, her work was very dark. She wouldn’t show it to people and when she did, people told her they were worried about her.

“And now her work is very positive and inspiring,” said her daughter Stephanie Marino, 19. “You can see and feel her emotions and her journey through the art.”

Doing art on a daily basis is therapeutic, Darla Marino said.

“It helps you heal and be able to deal with life’s stresses and go on, and on and on, and be semi-normal,” she said. “So art is everything to me.”

For more information, visit www.familyserviceagencyofburbank.org.

To order pictures from this event: http://rossbensonphotography.photoreflect.com/store/store.aspx?p=242859