What do you do on a hot summer afternoon? Why, eat watermelon, of course. Phoenix House teens had that opportunity at the annual Watermelon Festival, organized by the Sunland-Tujunga Lions Club and held at the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. On July 19 and 20, two groups of six teens from Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles, attended the festival with their counselors – not to eat watermelon – but to inspire young children to read. The students read aloud to groups of children, made origami, and gave out balloons, all to promote the joys of reading.
The project was a collaboration between Phoenix House and the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga, a group of local poets that have organized a Kids’ Book Corner or Kids’ Poetry Corner at the Watermelon Festival since 2011. While most of the visitors to the festival are drawn by the many attractions, rides, pop music performances, and giveaways, including tons of free watermelon, the organizers felt that promoting a little literacy would not be out of place. Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, Phoenix House’s Senior Director of Planning, is a founding member of Village Poets and organizes the events using her children’s favorite books and toys. Past attractions have included “tongue-twister” competitions, poets reading their own work, children volunteering to read stories to other children, poem and toy giveaways, face painting, and balloons.
The students and counselors also undertook another activity at the festival. Some stands featured free blood pressure screenings and healthcare information, so why not provide free drug prevention information for parents and teens? Phoenix House students and counselors walked the grounds of the festival and distributed substance abuse prevention brochures and other informative material.
We hope to expand our presence at the Festival next year and entertain the young ones with tongue-twisters, funny poems, origami, and coloring. We will also help make sure that the public is well informed about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the treatment options at Phoenix House.
If you need assistance with addiction or a troubled teenager using drugs, please call 1-888-671-9392.