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Festival Of Children Foundation


Some of the world’s best ideas are born out of sheer frustration. That was definitely the case for Sandra Segerstrom Daniels, founder of the Festival of Children. The Orange County-based organization shines the spotlight on hundreds of worthy children’s nonprofits throughout the country, including several in San Diego.


“I received two different invitations for two different golf tournaments raising money for two different children’s charities — and they were only a week apart,” recalls Daniels. “I wondered why these organizations couldn’t do one golf tournament and share it.”


Her conclusion? “They didn’t know how, and they didn’t have anybody to show them and make it happen,” explains Daniels. “This idea for collaboration continued to grow for me.”


Daniels hosted the first Festival of Children 11 years ago at South Coast Plaza, where she is a managing partner. The now-annual event, which takes place on weekends throughout September, brings together more than 75 youth-serving nonprofits, which pitch their causes to passersby without asking for donations on the spot.


“We pay for the booths with funding from sponsors, so every organization has the same quality signage, no matter what their budget,” says Segerstrom. “It’s a chance for people to learn about the many charities doing good work for kids.”


It’s also a lot of fun. This month’s Festival of Children at South Coast Plaza features more than 100 free family events and activities, including live music and dance performances, a back-to-school fashion show, arts and crafts, animal shows, face painting, skateboarding, and more.


For charities, especially those lacking big budgets for marketing and outreach, it’s an ideal opportunity to connect directly with deep-pocketed donors who might not have known about them otherwise.


“We’re happy to be a part of Festival of Children because their mission is to enrich the lives of children,” says Lesia Cartelli, founder of Angel Faces, a San Diego nonprofit that empowers teenage girls who’ve been burned or traumatized.


September also happens to be National Child Awareness Month, a designation indebted to Daniels’ years of effort. After officially launching the Festival of Children Foundation in 2002, Daniels began lobbying, first in Orange County and later in Washington, D.C.


The nationwide Festival of Children Foundation currently counts more than 475 charities on its roster, including at least one member organization in all 50 states. This year, the foundation is partnering with the D.C.-based Youth Service America to select an ambassador from every state. Ranging in age from 16 to 22, the ambassadors will attend leadership training and receive $1,000 grants to initiate new youth-focused programs. The following year, they’ll mentor the next group of young leaders.


Daniels says her interest in children’s charities easily can be traced to when she was in junior high and a favorite teacher enlisted her to volunteer for the Special Olympics. “That was life-changing,” she says. “The word ‘passion’ is overused, but this is definitely mine.”


Plus, she adds with a laugh: “We’re all just big kids, aren’t we?” (www.festivalofchildren.org)    ANNAMARIA STEPHENS 


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