The only thing better looking than the beautiful spring day on March 13th was Diego, a wonderful young man graduating the Koinonia Homes for Teens program. Surrounded by his friends and family, Diego received full honors as he was presented with his Certificate of Graduation and his graduation ring. He was also the recipient of an Angels in the Alley $1,500 transition scholarship.
Diego’s mentor, Justin LaCasse, opened the affair with an overview of Diego’s time a Koinonia and the strides he took to overcome the issues he faced early on. As Diego took the stage, he thanked those who had touched his heart while supporting him. Whether staff, peers, counselors, or community members, Diego took the time to thank each of them and verbalize his gratitude. He also took the time to encourage all of his peers and let them know that they could all be as successful as he had been at Koinonia.
The line of those who wanted to speak into Diego’s accomplishments grew. After an hour or so, Justin finally brought the graduation to a close with a prayer from Mama T, Teresa Tift. All in all, it was a beautiful afternoon and a wonderful event. All of our hearts go out to encourage Diego in the next phase of his life. He is a solid young man with a heart of gold, what else do you need?
The summer break is always a very rewarding time for the young men and women at Koinonia Homes For Teens. The schedule is filled with numerous activities to teach the value of a fun, safe, and sober lifestyle.Each year the house goes on a special trip. This year, House #4, went on their annual excursion to Santa Cruz and Monterey. On the car ride down the boys could hardly wait, but needed a little Starbucks to get properly fueled. The trip began with a bunch of singing, and a little napping.
Upon arriving in Santa Cruz, the group headed downtown to get a slice of pizza with a free T-Shirt at Pizza My Heart. We killed a little time waiting to check in at the hotel by checking out a few local shops, and played a little hacky sack.
After getting settled into the rooms it was off to the ocean for some beach time. The guys spent a few hours riding the waves. It was here where Joseph found a new level of joy. With every wave that crashed over him, pushing him underwater, Joseph would pop out of the water with a bigger smile. For the first time in a long time they felt free to be kids again, not worrying about all the challenges in their lives, but just living in the moment.
That much time in the water made them work up a good appetite, and so we walked a mile to the pier to eat. We sat outside, and a few of the boys for the first time in their lives ate seafood. Diego was all smiles as his seafood kabobs arrived, and it didn’t take long for him to finish them off. Jesse ate a crab melt that he called the best sandwich he has ever eaten; a few others savored the clam chowder. We were all full, and happy. And this was only day one.
The next day it was back to the beach in front of the Boardwalk. Again the boys spent hours in the water, playing Frisbee, and playing in the sand. Lunch was a huge picnic of cheeses, meats and fruit on the beach, and once again they were content to just live in the moment. However, you could see their eyes wander to the amusement park, with an anticipation of the fun they would soon have.
At 5 o’clock everybody got their wrist bands and for the first time in their lives, three boys got on a roller coaster, though with some trepidation. Hearing their screams of joy, seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter reminds you as a staff why you do this job. The roller coaster was a success but the next challenge was the drop shot which basically is a sling shot that you sit in. Once again all the boys participated, once again they screamed with joy. The night continued with bumper cars, dizzying rides, fried food, laughter, and camaraderie. Again they went to bed happy and a little excited.
The last day everybody filled up on the luxurious continental breakfast before checking out of the hotel and heading down the road to Monterey. Upon getting out of the van, the boys found some rocks to climb on near the ocean and stopped to pose for the camera.
It was now off to the Aquarium, where for the first time they saw sharks, seahorses, jellyfish, octopuses, otters, and a kelp forest, among other things. Again the innocent joy of young men who had missed out when they were kids was now present. They stood in wonder, interacted with hosts asking questions, playing games, and finding time to sit and reflect, and just be present in the moment.
The day was capped off with a feast of epic proportions at Bubba Gump’s. The popular items were the Jambalaya, and of course the pounds and pounds of Cajun shrimp as the appetizer. They were full and happy.
The trip home saw a few taking time to rest, a few others talked about the first experiences of each day, and they sang, they laughed, they lived in the moment. It was a joy to be in the presence of these young men who discovered new things, who pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. It was an honor to just live in the moment, and create memories that will last for a lifetime.
We would like to invite you to participate in our first ever FreeStyle Fashion Bike Parade where you get to dress up and ride for a good cause.
When: September 6 from 5pm-9pm Where: 1107 Roseville Square Roseville, CA Cost: $20 (100% of proceeds go to Koinonia, a local nonprofit) 5-7pm get a new hairstyle and expert makeup tips at our hair and makeup station.
Afterwards, DIY your helmet and bike at our decoration station.
At 7pm be ready to ride with your friends and family to Shady Coffee and Tea for Live Music and a presentation by Koinonia.
Live music at Shady Coffee and Tea by:
We partnered up with Konionia Homes For Teens, a local nonprofit, because we believe in the work they do for the community.
“Koinonia Homes for Teens is one of California’s premiere adolescent drug abuse treatment programs. Working with court adjudicated youth, Koinonia is serving one of the highest at-risk populations in the nation and always strives to offer more by treating the whole person. From recovery to education and job readiness, Koinonia boys and girls get to take advantage of an extensive set of in-house and community based opportunities.”
Koinonia Homes for Teens’ “Day in the Park” was an exciting event this year complete with special speakers and live music (a special thanks to Mitch and Tharon of Trukidz and the ‘Rey Y Kaye’ Band providing inspiration and entertainment). Our goal each year is to thank all of the wonderful folks who support our young people throughout the year and we hope we succeeded. Aside from hanging out with all of these fabulous people, the day’s highlight is always the great food provided by George Almeida and the Fuddruckers’ catering truck.
Following lunch, we were privileged to honor one of our graduates with a $1,500 Transition Scholarship provided by Dorian McCoy and the Angels in the Alley. Brianna graduated with full honors from the Koinonia Program as well as the Koinonia Community High School where she was asked to give the commencement speech for Placer County Office of Education’s graduation ceremonies. Brianna will be attending college in the fall.
Even with all of that, still to be decided, was which home was going to claim the bragging rights for the next year as the winners of the “Day in the Park” extreme competition. There were races to win, eggs to toss (and catch), and balls to dodge. Only the strong survive and only the best . . . or maybe the cleverest . . . or could be just the luckiest, win! With great prizes on the line, the competition was fierce.
As the day wound down, our time of reflection was full of gratitude for all those who went the extra mile for the teens at Koinonia. The amount of time spent and treasures given to our kids has ensured quality programing and successful transitions. Again, thanks to you all and may God bless you.
Merry Christmas . . . it must be time for a party! Once again the “Friends of Leonard,” honoring Leonard Brown and his long-term advocacy for substance abuse treatment in Placer County, put on a Christmas party for the Koinonia Teens. Headed up by Sharon Behren, county personnel from a number a different branches came together to fundraise for the party as well as the Koinonia Arts Program, raising enough for several pottery wheels.
The party itself was a ball, complete with a Karaoke DJ. There was no shyness singing Christmas carols as several teens got up to encourage participation. Emceed by Dan Wesp from the DA’s Office, special speakers included Judge Pineschi, offering words of encouragement to the teens, Leonard himself (the man of the hour) touching the hearts of everyone there with his passion for recovery, and a personal story from Steve Schauer. For the second year, the young people as well as the adults, were mesmerized by Pastor Jody Shorkey’s version of “The Grinch That Stole Christmas.” He begins with the original book in hand but within a page or two, sets the book down and continues on through the complete story from memory. Props, sound effects, and all. Each year, the teens fall dead silent, thoroughly enthralled throughout his perfomance.
This year, we included a Gingerbread House competition between each of the homes. They were incredibly creative and resourceful in their efforts to win “Most Creative” or “Best Technique.” No pressure though, they were only being judged by Superior Court Judge Pineschi, Placer County’s Board of Supervisor Chair, Jim Holmes and Pastor Jody Shorkey. The competition was tight and one of the home for girls took the Most Creative and a boy’s home captured the Best Technique.
A big “Thank You” to all of those who participated in throwing this wonderful Christmas Party for the teens at Koinonia. We can never fully express the impact that these events have on our young people, some that may have never celebrated a traditional Christmas prior to coming to Koinonia. The “Friends of Leonard” team blessed our teens with fun and encouragement while setting the stage for creating new family tradition in their families yet to come.
The park was beautiful, the grass was green and the gazebo was showered in streamers and decorations, all meticulously placed by careful and cautious hands hours earlier. The morning was calm and the organizers were ready. Then they came. Streaming in, adorned in amazingly decorated and colored team shirts. There was the Goonie Squad with their tie-dye shirts, the Cotton Candy Crew wearing brilliant pink and the Warriors wearing heroic Yellow. Then there were The Shenanigans wearing lucky green, the Flying Squirrels wearing traditional grey and finally The Purple Sharks wearing, you guessed it, royal purple. The atmosphere had now officially changed; the spirit of competition was filling the air. The basketball court was quickly occupied with competitors trying to show their worth. The field filled with every color and a soccer ball spontaneously caused a game to start. There were no dividing lines in the teams, everyone working together for the common goal, to score. The game was in full swing when the whistle was blown and everyone stopped with confusion, some were sad when they were told the game had to stop. The sadness was quickly extinguished when they realized the reasoning for the stopping of the game, it was time for lunch.
George Almeida and the Fuddruckers trucked had snuck in without much notice, but the heavenly aroma of the burgers and chicken was now too prominent to ignore. Mouths started to water as the line formed and people waited to fill their bellies. The food was amazing and everyone was grateful to Fuddruckers for catering such delicious and filling food. Lunch had ended and the teams began to form in front of their team signs. The games were intense and the competitors even more so. Pool noodle javelins were tossed, team chants were yelled and basketballs were shot. The games were close; no team ever had a clear lead. The games became more challenging, an egg toss that defied everyone’s distance expectations. The defeated were covered in egg and the victorious were not but everyone’s face was covered in a smile. The final game was a monster of a challenge concocted by the master of the games himself, Justin LaCasse. It was a triathlon of chaos. It began with an egg run that led into a backwards sprint. Eggs flew as people careened off of each other, the triathletes tripped and stumbled, laughing and cheering all the way down. Few made it to the final leg, the toilet paper three legged race, unscathed. Legs were bound with the flimsiest of toilet paper, many struggling to keep the brace tight without breaking the paper. The race was tight and none finished with all of their toilet paper intact but all finished with their heads held high. In the end, it was the girls of the Purple Sharks who were on the winner’s podium, having proven themselves in every event. Prizes were awarded, applause was given, and everyone was grateful for the fun they had. The day ended and people started to clean up with tired but joy filled eyes, green shirts helping pink shirts and yellow helping grey. In all, the games didn’t divide anyone; in fact, they solidified the unity of the peers participating. They learned that though they may be on different teams, they still were family, they still cared for one another and most of all, they were there for each other.