As this year’s holiday season has arrived and Koinonia residents have been given time off from school I was able to take one resident to do something special. Christian has had an itch to go paintballing for some time now and today was the day that we got make that wish come true. On November 24th, I came to work early in the morning as Christian was waking up for the day. From the moment he opened his eyes he was anxious to go sling some paintballs.
Christian, who is no beginner in the sport, showed me the basics of strategy and tactical ideas. After receiving our new weapons for the day at the paintball course, Christian and I helped each other fill them with yellow paint filled balls, to the brim. As we get onto the field of play, and the game officials yell “Go!” Christian lays down a thick cloud of paint on the opponents I see Christian maneuver around the mounds of mud and tires that make up the playing field, moving faster than I have ever seen him move before. Between Christian, the other two staff, and myself shot well over 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Not only did we fire a lot of rounds, we used them as a team. We helped each other out covering for one another by communicating with each other. As paintballs flew all around us, we stuck together as a team to accomplish our mission out on the field.
The best part of the day was seeing Christian have the most fun I’ve seen him have since being here at Koinonia. Christian was having such a great time doing something that he loved to do. Also being the resident expert gave him an extra bounce to his step. At the end of the day we walked to the van across the dirt parking lot covered in paint, dirt, and bruises. Christian was smiling from ear to ear and I knew that we had given him probably the best Thanksgiving break we could have possibly given him.
On the morning of Sunday July 29th I arrived at house three to pick up our boys, (Jon, Ian, Justin, Christian, Matt, and Aaron) to take them on a Whitewater Rafting trip down the South Fork of theAmericanRiver. The boys were very excited about the trip and filled with butterflies and anticipation about the adventure that lay before them.
After an hour drive into the foothills of Caloma,California, we met our guides atHenningsenPark, where we prepared to launch the rafts and set off down the river. We rafted down a section of river called “The Gorge” and it is home to a handful of class 3 rapids, with such names as “Satan’s Cesspool, Hospital Bar, Ambulance Chaser, and Widow Maker.”
One of the greatest moments I will remember about the trip was that as the rapids got bigger and stronger our group pulled closer and closer together. This bonding was unique and special to our group, as the other rafts fought against each other all day long not seeming to be able to get into sync or rhythm with each other. These boys became a team, a unit, by the end of the day they looked like well-oiled machine and they could maneuver the raft with precision as the guide gave commands to paddle forwards, backwards, left or right. They would shout “ASONE” or “TOGETHER” when taking on the biggest rapids to encourage each other to paddle as a unit and they did that all day long and took every rapid head on as a team.
It was an extraordinary thing to witness these young men come together and overcome every obstacle the river had to throw at them. I am hopeful and confident that the lessons they learned that day at the river will be ones they never forget.
Strikes Bowling, once again, came to the support of Koinonia Homes for Teens. Strikes celebrated their 1 year anniversary on Saturday, July 14th with a Kid Friendly Festival with games, activities, more bounce houses than you can imagine and live music. Koinonia was invited to share in the fun and to receive the benefits of an all day raffle. The event had something for everybody and everyone of all ages enjoyed themselves. Koinonia sends our love and appreciation to Strikes Bowling and all their wonderful staff, thanks Kari! Strikes is the host of the annual Christmas event “Angels in the Alleys” put on for the Koinonia Homes for Teens. It is all out bowling fun, tons of pizza, and gifts galore for each teen.
Congratulations Graduates! Koinonia Community School celebrated the high school graduation of three of its students at the commencement ceremonies on May 31st. Graduating were Alyssaa A, Kenny A and Daniel T. Hosted by the County Superintendent of schools, Gayle Garbolino-Mojica and Director Marc Nigel, our teens walked their walkin the presence of friends and family. Also in attendance were Associate Superintendent Dr. Renee Regacho-Anaclerio and the President of the Placer County Board of Education, Pam Robie-Hart.
The honor of opening the program with her acappella version of Amazing Grace was Koinonia’s own Ashley G. All three of our graduates had made the quality decision of remaining after their eighteenth birthdays in order to finish their high school education and have their sights set on college. Alyssaa and Daniel are enrolled at Sierra College and Kenny at William Jessup University. Currently employed, all three are on the mad dash to be on their own and ready for college in the fall.
When Josh Dardick, General Manager of United Natural Foods in Rocklin, held his leadership team-building event he chose to give it value and purpose beyond the UNFI Corporation. Challenging his leadership team with a surprise “build a bike” exercise, he then turned right around and donated the brand new and “just assembled” bicycles to families of children in need as well as the Koinonia Homes for Teens for teens transitioning from foster care.
The teens of Koinonia were invited to the UNFI facility and found Mr. Dardick greeting them at the front door. They were then ushered in and introduced to the complete leadership team. One by one, UNFI team presented the bikes to the children. Starting with youngest children and smallest bikes and working their way up to our teens with adult bikes. For the Koinonia teens, being welcomed and honored by Josh and his leadership team added significantly to the experience.
While there, we found that there were foster parents among the UNFI leadership team. John, who with his wife have fostered many children for many years said, “A child should never be without, including smiles, joy and hope . . . not only did we give them bikes but for those older kids, shaking their hands and smiling will last. Because most of those kids come damaged from adults, treating them with dignity and respect we helped them a lot.”
Once again, Wave Broadband in Rocklin plays Santa to the teens at Koinonia. For a number of years now, the employees at the Wave Broadband office in Rocklin have gotten together and adopted every teen at the Koinonia Homes for Teens, purchasing a Christmas gift for each one. And this year was no exception.
Truly understanding the importance of Christmas for children in out-of-home placement, Wave Broadband joins with Koinonia in making this and every Christmas the very best Christmas our teens may have ever had. Sadly, that isn’t always very difficult. Many of our youth have not enjoyed the customs that many of us take for granted. This is a time to expose our teens to the Christmas traditions that they may adopt for their families in the years to come.
Gifts under the tree is one of those. Having to wait until Christmas morning to open them is another. The excitement and the anticipation is all part of teaching patience, delayed gratification and hope through the Christmas effort. Wave Broadband’s support goes so much farther and means so much more than just a gift for a deserving teen. It communicates that people in the community really do care and that our teens are worth caring for.
Ed Black has served alongside Koinonia for about a year and a half now as the media producer. He’s the owner and founder of Imagination Harbor Media Group which he’s run for fifteen years, and says that Koinonia is one of his favorite clients because they’re “by far the most meaningful.” Ed produces and shoots videos, creates digital stories, manages the website and blog, and does success stories. His job is to serve the vision of Koinonia, and he believes it really takes a producer to tell a good story.
One of Ed’s favorite things about working with Koinonia is that he loves the staff. He says that Bill (Bill Ryland, Homes for Teens Administrator) is great and he loves that his videos actually make an impact on people. The most memorable film he made was advertising for the Ride for Life charity community event with Bill on a bike! Not only was it informative, but also pretty entertaining! Ed says there’s nothing that he would change about Koinonia because it is truly a “first class organization.”
Not knowing what he was getting himself into, Ed once volunteered to fill in as an overnight staff for a week- something he will never forget! He’s also had to learn to survive in the office at Koinonia you need a have a thick skin and a good sense of humor. Ed finds it rewarding that he’s a part of something bigger than himself, and knows “without a doubt that they (Koinonia) are life changers. Their program works and they know what they’re doing.” Ed would like to be remembered for his high quality work and believes it speaks for itself!
Ed has been working on producing a show called Paladin Nights featuring Paladin Private Patrol officers in South Sacramento.