LCHS Grad Surveys NFL From Thoughtful Distance

Covering the NFL for the L.A. Times has placed La Cañada High School graduate Sam Farmer in some pretty heady company, whether sitting on a discussion panel with former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman (above), climbing a mountain with Commissioner Roger Goodell (below) or chatting up Denver quarterback Peyton Manning at practice (right).
Covering the NFL for the L.A. Times has placed La Cañada High School graduate Sam Farmer in some pretty heady company, whether sitting on a discussion panel with former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman (above), climbing a mountain with Commissioner Roger Goodell (below) or chatting up Denver quarterback Peyton Manning at practice (right).

This was a call he had to take.
It was former Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson, wanting to know what everyone else did: Were his Rams coming back to L.A.?
“And I thought, ‘This is really a cool moment in my career,’” said Sam Farmer, a 1984 La Cañada High School graduate whose hard work covering the National Football League for the Los Angeles Times was recognized recently by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, which named him the California Sportswriter of the Year. Continue reading “LCHS Grad Surveys NFL From Thoughtful Distance”

College Daughter Has the Winter Blues

Dear Parent Coach,
Our daughter is a college freshman at an Eastern university. She called us this week (unusual!) saying she is under a lot of stress with her classes. She admits she is staying up too late and isn’t eating well. She seems to manage having fun, but doesn’t have the same drive to handle her studies. She’s questioning whether or not she’s cut out to be in college, or if this is the right college for her. We aren’t ready to give in and say come home, but we feel frustrated and worried. How can we help her?
Signed, Puzzled Parents Continue reading “College Daughter Has the Winter Blues”

Sibling Rivalry is Universal in Families

Sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel and as current as the latest argument at this morning’s breakfast table. Anyone who has at least one sibling has experienced its dynamics.
Whenever there is more than one child living in a family, sibling rivalry will naturally occur. However, petty arguments between brothers and sisters do have some basis and understandable causes. Every child has the primal desire to be loved, to have emotional security, in addition to the basic needs of food, clothing and a guidance-oriented environment. When there are two parents who are the source of all these needs, the more children who are living in a home, the more parents will be divided in their efforts to provide. Continue reading “Sibling Rivalry is Universal in Families”

Kids Make Big Changes With Small Acts of Kindness

Among Lauren and Gracie Dundee’s many kind ideas are the “We Care Kits,” which include necessities such as clean socks and first-aid supplies.

Carolyn Dundee is raising daughters who are going to help save the world.
It’s important to Dundee that Lauren, 16, and Gracie, 11, feel empowered to be kind, to serve others and, in so doing, inspire others in a way that will help improve life for everyone.
“When you show kids as young as 2 or 3 years old about kindness and service so that it becomes a way of life for them, [the result] is twofold,” said Dundee, who lives in La Cañada Flintridge with her children and husband, Mark Dundee.
“You get the children to do good things in the community now and learn about compassion and empathy and leadership, and they grow into adults who become leaders in the world. They’ll have the skill set and understanding that we’re all citizens of the world. What affects one affects all. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Dundees represent the leadership of Small Acts Big Change, a small local nonprofit that’s going on its fourth year striving, in any number of creative ways, to improve life for people, animals and the environment.
Officials at Gelson’s Markets recently learned of the big changes that Small Acts was making and sent an email surprising the Dundees with a grant — $2,500 — raised from checkstand donations throughout the year that an appreciative and still somewhat astonished Carolyn said will be used within the community.
“Every year, Gelson’s tries to reach out to the community around our stores and organizations that are impacting the communities in those areas,” said Tim Mahoney, senior director of store operations for Gelson’s. “La Cañada Flintridge is such a community that focuses on developing young people, we thought it was a great fit for Gelson’s to contribute to them.”
Lauren and Gracie, whose focus leans toward people and animals, respectively, have been excited about service for most of their lives.
Gracie was just 3 years old when she stood up at a family meeting and successfully pitched the idea of aiding rabid African dogs. In no time, she was raising awareness with her Daisy Troop, while her family members were working with the World Wildlife Fund.
Now Gracie, who was appointed to be the “kindness liaison” this year by Crestview Preparatory School administrators who carved out the position just for her, kick-started a Kindness Club at the school. She’d already established a monthly volunteer opportunity for her peers — the “9 Small Acts of Kindness Campaign” — for the upper grades.
“It started with a girl in my class who had never volunteered before,” she said. “And I really felt bad that she didn’t get a chance to volunteer even though she wanted to, and ever since then I’ve been bringing new ideas to the school. It’s so fun.”
Last month’s activity had Dundee and her mates spreading peanut butter on bagels and covering them with birdseed — voila, birdfeeders! Then they hung some of them outside of windows at a nursing home in Montrose so the residents could have a front-row seat to watch the birds feast.
The campaign does not call for fundraising, Carolyn Dundee said, because its focus is on simple projects using supplies that are on hand. For example, Flint Canyon Tennis Club donated old tennis balls that the kids stuffed into socks to create dog toys, which were then donated.
For the Small Acts Big Change crew, leaving a dent can mean leaving empty grocery bags in front of people’s homes with a note asking residents to fill them with a few items — canned food for people or animals, say — to be picked up at a specified time.
Or it can launch “heart attacks,” which entails leaving something such as a charm or a sunflower for an unsuspecting stranger to find, along with a note that explains, “Congratulations! You have just experienced a random act of kindness,” and instructs, “Now it’s your chance to pay it forward and pass it on. Do something kind for someone else and pass this card along to them so they can keep the kindness going.”
Lauren Dundee, who attended Flintridge Prep before opting for independent online study to free up her schedule for acting and modeling work, said they’ve received messages from people who’ve discovered one of these cards and passed it on from as far away as Portugal and New Zealand.
“We don’t want this to be about going out and getting money,” Carolyn Dundee said. “It’s about having no money and still being able to get something done. Nobody has to really be a member of the U.N. to make this dent; we all just have to do our part.”
And yet, even the most grassroots of organizations benefit from some financing, whether it’s to help an organization rescue stranded marine mammals or stock the “We Care Kits” with clean socks, snacks and other necessities that go out to folks experiencing homelessness in Pasadena or Los Angeles.
The Dundees recently teamed with Elvis Summers of Tiny House, Huge Purpose, to create welcome-packages — including towels or welcome rugs — for those moving into the small, portable homes Summers builds.
Carolyn recalls one man breaking down in tears when he received his welcome package: “It was just toilet paper, but he sobbed like we’d given him a gold bar.”
Of course, the Dundees were similarly touched by the Gelson’s grant.
“They had no idea of the dollar amount,” Mahoney said. “Maybe they thought $500? When the check for $2,500 was presented, they were so overjoyed, and already they were thinking, at that very moment, ‘How can we use the money?’”
Said Carolyn: “That’s a lot of kindness activities.”
Added Gracie: “Definitely one of my top moments of the charity.”

Grandparenting in Magical Santa Barbara

Dear Parents,
At the end of the day, it is the trusting relationship one builds and maintains with a child that matters most. This was the conclusion I came to as I stood on the end of the Santa Barbara pier with grandchildren Ivy and Everett, watching the sun set on the first day of a new year. I quietly sang taps to them: “Day is done, gone the sun . . . safely rest, God is nigh.” None of us wanted to leave, but it was getting dark. Continue reading “Grandparenting in Magical Santa Barbara”

Dupre’s Fascinating Story of Adversity and Triumph

Photo courtesy Alen Barbosa Wood
India Dupre, at the keyboard, is surrounded by adoring students, including Jessica Mazin, Genny Seto, Shelby Kim, Lauren Halley, Tanvi Chawla, Soren Dziak, Bo Oliver, Nitya Chawla and Axel Frame.

Sometimes, when she’s coaching kids in the neighborhood, imparting important technical pointers and, more crucially, being a booster of the confidence that makes those skills sing, the thought strikes India Dupre: “I was only that little.”
In La Cañada Flintridge, Dupre comes highly recommended. For the past 15 years, she’s worked here as a voice and acting teacher for youth, sometimes directing ambitious productions at the La Cañada Junior Theater and often tutoring pupils privately as they prepare for auditions.
Most of those students don’t know much about Dupre’s personal background beyond the fact that she comes with a cool Australian accent.
Heck, as LCF resident Brent Kuszyk put it, he had to “pry” to get Dupre even to talk about her professional accomplishments after his daughter, Ali, began taking voice lessons from her. So clients might not know that Dupre graduated magna cum laude from UCLA’s School of Theater, that she’s appeared on network TV shows and in video games or, soon, that she’ll be making a short film funded largely by the Kevin Spacey Foundation.
This year, the KSF Artists of Choice program awarded Dupre a grant to help transfer her biographical story from her computer hard drive to the screen.
Dupre will direct the seven-minute “Stripped” as a proof of concept for a full-length feature. She’s set out to tell a tale — with help from La Cañada Junior Theater actors Stella Bonstin and Bo Oliver — that will teach viewers a lot about a difficult, despicable chapter in Australian history. And about her. Continue reading “Dupre’s Fascinating Story of Adversity and Triumph”

Mural Provides Comfort During Difficult Time

Kathleen Meyer stands next to her mural depicting Descanso Gardens.

Lowell Meyer made two trips to the newspaper office in the past five weeks looking for a reporter to write an article about his wife’s art project.
Kathleen Meyer, a veteran art teacher at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, never would have done such a thing. But Lowell was convinced his wife’s project was newsworthy: After all, had anyone else painted an intricate, 40-foot-long mural of Descano Gardens along her dining room walls?
“It has exact detail,” he said when he pitched the story by phone in December. “It looks exactly like Descanso. And it goes from one end to the other. It’s fantastic.” Continue reading “Mural Provides Comfort During Difficult Time”

LCF Magician Keeps ’Em Guessing

Jackson Ridd

Riddle me this: How did he do that?
Jackson Ridd, a magician, illusionist, moment-maker and 2007 La Cañada High School graduate, warned audience members last week at the Underground Theater in Hollywood that they might take his work home with them.
He even went so far as to offer party favors to encourage delayed reflection following the show titled “Discoverie of Magic.”
“This isn’t going to be the standard magic show,” said Ridd, 25, as he revved his engine on a polished, hourlong set that includes 10 head-scratching segments, each of them reliant on audience participation.
“And I know,” he added, “because I’ve seen a lot of them.” Continue reading “LCF Magician Keeps ’Em Guessing”

A Golden Moment After Dark Days for the Buck Family

The cheer that went up in La Cañada Flintridge on Sunday night was for Chris Buck, the LCF resident and co-director of the Disney smash-hit “Frozen,” which was honored at the 71st Golden Globe Awards as the Best Animated Film.
It was another chapter in an emotional few months for Buck, whose son Ryder was killed in late October after being struck by two cars while walking across the 2 Freeway.
“I have to say, I’ve been fairly schizophrenic the last few months,” Buck said Tuesday. “When my son was killed, I was doing publicity in New York and we flew back for the service and everything. I was there for about two weeks before we kind of had to get rolling again. But I think it was a good distraction.”
At his first Golden Globes ceremony Sunday, Buck took the stage to accept the award with fellow director Jennifer Lee. They thanked those who helped make the film, and Buck added, “And we want to thank all of the fans who have taken ‘Frozen’ into their hearts.” Continue reading “A Golden Moment After Dark Days for the Buck Family”