Putting the Fun in Fundraising

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Balboa Beach Kids Create Sand Art for Charity


Some beach bound boys raised money for charity while having fun in the sun this summer.

Darin Materman, 8, and brothers Jake, 9, and Gavin,7, Eckstrom spent their week on Balboa Island creating sand castles and other sandy creations and raising money for the ALS charity, Beauty Bus Foundation.

“Our grandchildren wanted to create a wonderful sand-art sculpture for people walking around Balboa Island to look at and enjoy,” said the Eckstrom boys’ granddad, Doug Ross of Encino.

(right to left) Jake Eckstrom, 9, Darin Materman, 8, and Gavin Eckstrom, 7, admire their sandy sculpture. — Photo by Doug Ross.

The family was visiting the island during the week of Aug. 6 to 13. Materman was visiting his grandparents, Gary and Sera Brill, who live on Lido Island, Ross said.

Their art, which included their own vision of Balboa Island and a nearly six foot tall cake, raised $170 for the charity. They created their sand sculptures on their little slice of beach at S. Bayfront and Garnet Ave. They hung a sign asking for donations for Beauty Bus along with a basket and a sheet showing their $100 goal.

At first the kids wanted to try and earn money to visit the fun zone, Ross said. He suggested doing it for a charity and they became excited to help out others.

They chose Beauty Bus because it’s a charity that is close to their hearts, Ross said. The organization began after the 28-year-old daughter of a close family friend passed away from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Ross said.

“While she was sick and unable to get out of the house her parents were able to bring in beauty care professionals to give her a lift by giving her manicures, hair, makeup etc.,” Ross said. “She loved it and it made her feel human and beautiful while confined to wheelchair and a breathing tube.”

One of the boys' designs was their sandy re-creation of Balboa Island. This sculpture, along with their many others, helped them raise almost double their goal. — Photo by Doug Ross

After she passed, her family decided to create a foundation for people with neuromuscular diseases to bring beauty care professionals into their homes for the patients and their caregivers.

Beauty Bus, a 501(c)(3) charity, provides in-home beauty and grooming services, free of charge, to men, women and children whose illness or condition prevents them from accessing a salon or spa. Beauty Bus strives to empower their clients, help them maintain dignity and give them respite during difficult times, according to the Beauty Bus website.

Getting pampered and feeling beautiful gives the person a happy lift, the website states and encourages people to hop “aboard the Beauty Bus!”

“It’s such a  wonderful cause,” Ross said. “People (on Balboa) were just overwhelmed (to learn about).”

One of the passers-by worked for Lancome Cosmetics and Skin Care, he said, and offered up some great products for the cause.

“People were just as sweet as could be,” he said. “Everyone who came by was so pleased with the beach art and when they heard the story about Beauty Bus they all wanted to donate to such a wonderful cause.”

Junior Lifeguards came by and put money in, Ross said, and many locals and tourists. Those who had nothing in their pockets at the time would often come back and make a donation, he said.

One of the many sculptures the boys created on their little patch of sand. — Photo by Doug Ross

The group had to create a new sand sculpture every day, since the tide would wash away the day’s previous creation every night.

The boys used beach items, toys and decorations to adorn their designs, including their first sculpture, their “Vision of Balboa Island.”

It certainly caught people’s attention, Ross said.

“Everybody loved it,” he said. “People would stop and look at it… (People) loved coming by each day to see what the kids did.”

People loved stop and chitchat, he said, and they met many new acquaintances.

It was not just a wonderful gesture, but a fun way to meet people and a wonderful learning experience for the children.

“It was a good learning experience for the kids,” the proud grandpa said. “They learned that it feels great to collect money and give it to people that need it and do it for a worthwhile cause.”

It was a lot of fun, Ross said.

“The kids really enjoyed it,” he said. They got to have fun and help others, he said.

“Everybody [involved] got a smile,” out of it, Ross said. “It was a lovely thing.. What started out as a harebrained idea turned into something wonderful.”

Visit www.beautybus.org to learn more about the Beauty Bus Foundation.

Jake Eckstrom, 9, Darin Materman, 8, and Gavin Eckstrom, 7, admire their sandy sculpture. Photo by Doug Ross.
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