Santee Residents Brave Rain for SanTree Fest

Cold, wind and the threat of rain couldn’t stop over 200 enthusiastic residents from coming out on Saturday, March 17, for the seventh annual SanTree Fest, held this year at Town Center Community Park. Nearly two dozen businesses and community groups manned booths with everything from health and nutrition to environmental awareness. While the weather forced the cancellation of some events and activities, there was still plenty for people to enjoy.

SanTree Fest is part Arbor Day, part Earth Day and a tribute to Santee’s continued status as a Tree City USA for the city’s commitment to having a well-planted community. In previous years the celebration has done landscaping at Cajon Park School and done planting and cleanup in Mast Park. This year’s projects included planting 40 trees in the green spaces around the Cameron Family YMCA and the creation of a “rock creek” to enhance the visual appeal of the area.

With the looming threat of heavy rain, tree planting was done immediately, with volunteers grabbing shovels and potted trees and heading out to pre-determined locations. In no time at all the trees were in the ground and volunteers were moving on to other activities. Many chose to help lay rocks for the new landscape feature, a sinuous pathway of large river rocks dotted with several small plants.

“It was super fun,” said one young participant from Pride Academy who helped with both the planting and the rock projects. “I’m in a group at school called Club Live, and this was a project we could work on.”

For those willing to get even more “down and dirty,” the Friends of Santee’s River Park and the city of Santee Community Services Department organized a cleanup of the nearby Woodglen Vista Creek which runs through a section of the park. This small tributary to the San Diego River received a much-needed clearing to prevent debris from being washed down into the river and then to the ocean. Among the hundreds of pieces of trash removed were an old tire and a shopping cart. Storm water will now flow more easily with less flooding.

Shannon Quigley-Raymond of the Friends of Santee’s River Park was on hand to share the group’s message with visitors to SanTree Fest and to encourage participation in future events. The Friends of Santee’s River Park is a chapter of the larger San Diego River Park Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the county’s namesake waterway. April will feature RiverBlitz – a survey of the San Diego River through Santee to identify problem areas – and an Earth Day clean up at Big Rock Park on the west side of the city. More information about the groups is available on their websites (see links above).

Another environmental group on hand was the San Diego Regional Urban Forest Council, an organization made up of a variety of public and private entities. The SDRUFC advocates for a variety of projects such as San Diego County’s Cool Communities Shade Tree Program and provides information about grants and public education initiatives. SDRUFC members Delia Juncal and Mike Palat were there to answer questions and provide information, including a handout on Water-Wise Tree Care for the San Diego Region.

While the turnout was not as large as previous years, Santee’s Special Events Supervisor Cherie Meek was still pleased with the results. “We probably had at least 200 people out here,” she said, “even with the weather.”

For more information about events in Santee, visit the City of Santee website.

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Cajon Park School holds Health and Fitness Fair

Running cones, tossing a medicine ball, shooting baskets and dribbling a soccer ball are not normally part of the middle school curriculum, but for students at Cajon Park School these were just some of the activities during the first Health and Fitness Fair. The event was just part of a month-long focus on health and fitness at the school connected with the NFL Play 60 Program that kicked off throughout the district in January. That program focuses on encouraging children to commit to at least 60 minutes of activity every day as a way to work toward a healthier lifestyle.

The Health and Fitness Fair was designed and organized by Cajon Park Vice Principal Suzanne Martin, with help from the district’s Wellness Committee. Activities included soccer drills with members of the San Diego Sockers indoor soccer team, a mini obstacle course with trainers from Chuze Fitness, basketball skills with representatives from Santee’s Teen Center and presentations on nutrition by a district nurse and a nutritionist.

“This is something we have designed in collaboration with the NFL Play 60 Program activities, in that we want our students to be active 60 minutes a day,” Vice Principal Martin explained. “We’re encouraging our kids in grades 6 through 8 to be involved, so for the past three weeks they have been monitoring their own activity in journals. We want them to get 60 minutes of activity at recess time, PE time or even at home. Today is actually an entire fair that we have dedicated to health and fitness.”

Joe Spencer, a parent and a member of the Santee School District Wellness Committee, helped to organize the NFL Play 60 Program in the district. “We wanted to have events at each school, so Ms. Martin decided she wanted to have a mini-health fair. I had talked with former Charger Vencie Glenn from the beginning. He’s a motivational speaker who goes out and speaks with kids, and he said he wanted to be part. I also reached out to the San Diego Sockers and John Kentera and he wanted to be a part, so he got Aaron Susi and Eduardo Velez to come out here.”

Each of the three physical activity stations ran approximately 15 minutes and included a short talk about health and nutrition from the presenters. At the soccer station Sockers stars Aaron Susi and Eduardo Velez took each group through a series of basic dribbling skills and footwork. After the students had the chance to try their feet at the activity, Susi talked to them about the importance of making good choices in food. After that the two signed autographs on whatever students had handy, including T-shirts, arms and even one cast.

“It’s always good to give back to the kids,” said Susi between groups. “These are the things that made me look up to soccer players and other athletes when I was younger in school, seeing them come and work with us and teach about being healthy. It’s good that I can do the same for these kids. We talked to them a little about eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, and we’re teaching them some basic dribbling skills.”

Velez, who tends to let his flashy play on the field speak for him, said, “It’s always great being out with the kids. I love having the opportunity. I love to play around with the kids and have fun with them. We’re talking with them about being healthy and eating healthy food.”

At the basketball station Jeff Eidson and Ryan Bozelle from the Teen Center showed the students basic passing and dribbling skills before letting them try shooting baskets. Between groups the two talked about the role of the Teen Center in the community and what they hoped to bring to the students at the Health and Fitness Fair.

“The Teen Center is located at Lake 5 at Santee Lakes and has been around for eleven years now,” Eidson explained. “It’s an after-school program that caters to sixth through twelfth grade students. We take the kids fishing or out on the paddle boats. They can play pool or just hang out with their friends. It’s a safe place for them and their parents know where they are.”

“About once a week we’re at a different school talking about the Teen Center and what we do,” Eidson continued. “We have a dance called the Friday Night Hot Spot at City Hall once each month, usually on the last Friday. It’s just another thing we do to help keep the kids out of trouble and keep them active and having fun.”

One of the more interesting stations was the Chuze Fitness obstacle course. Students took turns in groups tossing heavy medicine balls, doing shuttle-steps between cones, jumping rope for several minutes, or making their way through hoop runs. A great deal of laughter accompanied the activities, led by trainers Brandon Decker and Kim Assino.

“We’re out her trying to show these kids better ways to work out and to give them different ideas and exercises,” said Decker. “We just want to show them good ways to keep their heart rate going and keep in shape. Different things they can do when they are outside, having fun with a partner or by themselves. The kids seem to be having a lot of fun, and they are getting a pretty good workout at the same time.”

Cajon Park middle school teachers had an easy time of it, shepherding their groups from station to station and then watching the fun. Allsyn Gazi, a math and science teacher, was with her group at the Chuze Fitness station. “This all has to do with heart health awareness and physical fitness,” she explained. “It’s a change from the normal day in and day out PE. With the program they kids are keeping track of their movement each day and they are finding out just how much exercise they actually do in a day. Sometimes it’s more than they realize, other times they see how much more they should be doing.”

John Beacom, a middle school history teacher, pointed out the importance of having the professional athletes and trainers involved. “It means a lot to these kids to see the real professionals who make a living by leading healthy lifestyles, eating right and doing the right things to keep themselves in shape,” he said. “Many of these kids dream about being professionals, either basketball, soccer, football, even cheerleading. These professionals are reinforcing ideas that, hopefully, will help these kids reach their goals.”

For the Cajon Park students who took part in the Health and Fitness Fair, it was all about the fun. Seventh-grade student Janae, who hopes to play softball in high school, enjoyed the soccer station, but admitted, “It was kind of hard. You definitely have to have the right shoes to do it and I didn’t. I don’t usually play soccer, but it was fun. It was cool seeing the two Sockers players; they were really good and definitely professional.”

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said seventh grader Justin. “I had no clue that San Diego had an indoor soccer team. I used to play goalie with AYSO Lakeside’s Gravediggers.”

Asked about how the Play 60 Program has affected him over the past month, Justin confirmed he had seen some definite improvement in the amount of activity he was involved in. Janae agreed that the month-long focus had made a difference, although she admitted, “It’s hard to eat good things every day with all the tempting fast food.”

While the Play 60 Program is a good start, it will be up to the students and their parents and teachers to continue the good habits that have been started. Health is not a one-day or even a one-month activity, but a conscious choice each and every day for a lifetime.

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Santa Visits Coffee Corner for Story Time

Not a mouse was in sight, and children were definitely not snuggled in their beds on Saturday, December 3, as Santa arrived at Coffee Corner in Santee to read stories and share the holiday spirit. Santa’s elves, who double as the coffee shop’s baristas during the regular year, were on hand to help with the fun. About 15 boys and girls and about two dozen adults gathered to kick off the Christmas season.

The Santa reading event was the brainchild of Santee resident and radio host (101 KGB FM) Clint August as a way to benefit both the community and his favorite coffee shop. “I started it with Duane Parks (owner of Coffee Corner) because I love seeing children get in the spirit of Christmas and I love the coffee shop. I figured it’s such a great, intimate location to have families come from Santee. They can see their children smile while meeting Santa.”

Before Santa’s “arrival,” the barista elves entertained the children, clowning around and pretending they were unable to find where the jolly old elf was. When he did appear, Santa explained that before he read the stories they had to light the decorated tree at the shop. He then went around and had each child touch a tree-topper star to start the “magic” needed to light the tree when it was put in place.

This year families were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Santee Santas, a local organization that provides food and presents to needy families during the holiday season. In addition to the toys, food and nearly $100 were donated to help make the season a little brighter for some local families.

Photographer Penny Wilkinson was on hand taking pictures of the kids as they perched on Santa’s lap and shared their Christmas lists. According to August, the crowd was about one-third larger than the previous year. Asked about plans for the future, he said Santa would be returning every year for the foreseeable future. “I’d love to get my boys as Santa’s helpers one day,” August indicated. “Certainly all of the elves that were there last night would be great to have again. They were fantastic.”

Coffee Corner owner Parks later posted his appreciation on his Facebook page: “thank you to everyone who stopped by The Coffee Corner last night to visit with Santa…. It was truly a magical night… Many toys, food and nearly $100 were all donated to a local (Santee Santa’s). Thanks to Santa for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit with our kids, and thanks to his lovely elves who kept us organized and entertained (you girls are great elves, and Awesome Baristas too. Special thanks Penny Wilkinson and Chris Carmichael for capturing the evening on camera. God is good!”

For anyone who missed the event and would like to help Santee Santas, you can visit their website to find out more information.

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Santee Santas Need Your Help

(L-R) Laura Plante, Sam Modica and Vicki Cecil of Santee Santas at the Santee Car Show

The following is a press release from Santee Santas explaining the great need they have for help this holiday season. I have written about the Santas before, and I encourage readers to get involved with the group, even if it is just a small donation.

Santee Santas Prepare for High Demand this Holiday Season
As the economic downturn continues, Santee Santas brace for high demand; Seek help from local businesses and residents

SANTEE, CA, November 8, 2011 (For Immediate Release) – As the holiday season begins to pick up steam, the Santee Santas are already in full swing of their holiday preparations to ensure that every Santee resident enjoys some holiday cheer.

Santee Santas is an all-volunteer, non-profit, organization bringing comfort and joy to Santee residents by providing food and gifts, especially during the holiday season.  Each family who receives assistance is able to get a holiday meal and enough staples to last a few weeks. Each child receives toys or gift cards depending on their age as well as books.

“With the current state of the economy, we are anticipating even greater demands this year than we saw in 2010,” says Gail Ramer, Vice Chairman of Santee Santas. “When you add to this fact that so many local businesses are suffering, we are hoping that those who are able, will step up and help us meet the needs of so many hurting Santee residents.”

For those who can help, donations of new unwrapped toys and books, as well as non-perishable food items, are currently being accepted at over 30 drop box locations throughout Santee. Cash donations are also always encouraged.  Cash donations can be mailed to Santee Santas Foundation, P.O. Box 710033, Santee, CA 92072-0033 or through PayPal via the Santee Santas Website.

For those in need, applications will be accepted on Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm at Santee City Hall at 10601 N. Magnolia, Building 8.  Applications will also be accepted on November 16 from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm and November 29 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Santee Fire Station #4 at 8950 Cottonwood Avenue.  Blank applications are available at all Santee School Offices, Santee Chamber of Commerce, the Santee Library or by visiting www.santeesantas.org.
Santee Santas has been bringing the spirit of the holidays to the Santee Community for more than fifty years.  In 2010, Santee Santas assisted 203 families, including 397 children and delivered 150 flower arrangements to seniors at mobile home parks and 100 Stuffed animals were given to residents at Stanford Court Nursing Home.

For more information about Santee Santas, including a complete list of toy and food drop-off locations, or to make a donation online, please visit www.santeesantas.org.

Thank You Santee!

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Santee Car Show draws thousands

The second annual Santee Car Show attracted thousands of visitors to the community on Saturday, October 8. The event featured classic cars, great music by Moondawgs and 4 Lads from Liverpool, and a wide variety of vendors. The big winners on the day were the Santee Santas and Santee Food Bank, two community groups that received support and increased awareness through the event.

(L-R) Laura Plante, Sam Modica and Vicki Cecil of Santee Santas at the Santee Car Show

Santee Santas is a non-profit organization that has been providing support to low income seniors and families in the community since 1953. The all-volunteer group works with the Santee School District to identify students and families who need assistance at the holidays and throughout the year. The Family Emergency Fund is available at any time of the year, while the Holiday Food and Toy Program focuses on providing assistance at the holidays. The group also has a Senior Outreach Program that works to make sure that seniors in the community are not forgotten about during the year. Sam Modica, one of the organization’s directors explained that being a part of the Car Show “gives us quite a bit of exposure to the community that we didn’t have in years past.” The group hopes that its attendance at the Car Show and the Santee Street Fair will help bring in both donations and volunteers to help the organization throughout the year.

Sandy Olewine (L) and Marsi Walker (R) of Santee Food Bank

The second organization, Santee Food Bank, has been helping families in Santee since 1988, and has found its services in much greater demand since the start of the Great Recession. Another all-volunteer group, the Food Bank provides once-a-month assistance to needy low and middle income families in the community. Marsi Walker, Public Affairs Director, said that the exposure at the Car Show is a great benefit for the Food Bank in its efforts to reach out the the greater community for volunteers and donations. “The fact that the Chamber is so supportive of us and sponsors the Car Show to help benefit the Food Bank means so much to us,” said Walker. “We are out here giving out flyers inviting people to come and work at the Food Bank, to give their time and energy and service, and we have collection cans throughout the show for donations.”

One of the biggest draws for the Car Show was the raffle of a restored 1967 Ford Mustang GT, sponsored by the Santee Chamber of Commerce. Only 2000 tickets were sold at $20 each, with money going to the Santee Santas and the Santee Food Bank. The car was restored by Lloyd’s Collision and Repair of Santee, with help from San Diego Mustang Shop, Mark’s Auto Glass, Mark Luhr’s Custom Upholstery and Xpress Muffler. Bob Lloyd, owner of Lloyd’s Collision and a member of the Santee Chamber of Commerce, said that the raffle had been so popular that the Chamber plans to repeat it next year, possibly with a classic Chevy Camaro.

(L-R) Miss Teen Santee Savannah Keener, Miss Santee Maria Maes, and "Mr. Santee" Rob McNelis

Also on hand for the show were Miss Santee, Maria Maes, and Miss Teen Santee, Savannah Keener, who helped choose two of the winning cars in the show. “It was so difficult coming through and picking our favorite cars,” said Savannah. “There were so many people out here with their special cars.” Maria echoed her teen counterpart’s enthusiasm. “Coming to the Car Show was amazing. All of the beautiful cars we saw, and we got to choose our favorite cars. It was a tough decision.”

After the success of the second Car Show, it’s no surprise that planning is already under way for the third edition, scheduled for early October, 2012. The next major event in Santee will be the Santee Holiday Lighting Celebration in November, followed by the annual Santee Street Fair in May, 2012.

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Win a Classic Mustang at the Santee Car Show

Win this 1967 Ford Mustang at the 2011 Santee Car Show

The second annual Santee Car Show is coming up on Saturday, October 8, and this year the Santee Chamber of Commerce will be raffling off a classic 1967 Ford Mustang to help raise funds for the Santee Santas and the Santee Food Bank. Only 2000 of the $20 tickets will be sold, so odds are much better than the Lottery. The Chamber has been selling the tickets at regular events and at special displays around town, including at the Santee Wine & Bluegrass Festival and in front of local stores. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the Car Show.

2010 Santee Car Show Grand Trophy Winner

The first Santee Car Show was a great success, with over 10,000 visitors attending. The first show included over 175 classic cars, trucks and motorcycles, music, games, vendor booths, and much more. This year the show will include over 200 vehicles, plus a display by the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association. As before, there will be games, rides, and over food and vendor booths. The big draw this year – besides the cars – will be musical guest 4 Lads from Liverpool, a top Beatles tribute band. The Lads will be performing on stage in the afternoon, followed by a photo session at the Beatles Fan Club booth nearby. A portion of the funds raised from the photos will go to the event’s fundraising efforts.

For more information visit the Santee Car Show website.

Read about the 2010 Santee Car Show.

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New Review for Mast Park Plans

The City of Santee has announced a third public review of the proposed Master Plan for Mast Park. This public comment session will be on the preferred design alternative from Schmidt Design Group. The public workshop will take place on Thursday, October 6, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Santee City Hall Complex, Building 7, 10601 Magnolia Ave.

Mast Park is the largest and oldest of Santee’s city parks, and the design and review process has been ongoing since early summer. The goal is to allow as much community input as possible to make help guide the future for this great resource. So far the community workshops have provided a number of ideas that Schmidt Design Group has incorporated into the current plan. One major area of focus has been on health and wellness, and part of the funding for the project is coming from a San Diego County Association of Governments (SANDAG) Healthy Communities Planning Grant. The grant itself is part of a county effort to address the nationwide obesity “epidemic.”

As it now stands, the plan addresses several important areas that community members insisted the designers include:

  • Keeping the park’s “natural, rustic character”
  • Providing additional picnic shelters for large groups and new picnic pavillions
  • Replacing the restroom facilities with newer, more efficient facilities
  • Dividing the current 2.4 acre off-leash dog park into separate large and small dog areas
  • Create an area for fitness equipment and a one-mile trail loop for hiking/walking
  • Provide an additional 60 parking spaces

The city would like to have everything in place to make a final decision either late this year or early next year.

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