Putting Kids First Event Raises $175,000

PAL benefit honors John Van Dongee and first responders

Attendees check out gift packages and other items available for a pre-dinner silent auction during the 22nd Annual Police Activities League Putting Kids First at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum on Friday.

The Police Activities League of Santa Barbara raised $175,000 at the 22nd annual Putting Kids First event Friday night at the Santa Barbara Carriage House. This is the first event held since 2019 due to the pandemic.

The silent auction raised $175,000, well exceeding PAL’s goal of $80,000, which will fund enrichment programs for disadvantaged youth in Santa Barbara. The winners of this year’s event were John Van Donge and Santa Barbara First Responders. A special thank you to the title sponsor, Jay and Talia Roston. The evening included a dinner, as well as the silent auction.

Some of the notable items from the auction included a poster signed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a pair of cleats signed by world-famous soccer player Pelé, Lakers packages and gift certificates for local restaurants in Santa Barbara.

Participants look at the items available for the silent auction.

“It was special because in addition to finally being able to see each other and board members being able to meet for the first time in years, we were able to honor John Van Donge,” Judie Lugo, executive director of the Santa Barbara Police Activities League, told News-Press.

“John got us through one of the toughest times in PAL (which were) due to the police protests and the fact that we hit an all-time low financially due to the pandemic. We were afraid of having to close our doors.

“We are now established where we know we won’t go anywhere for 25 years. John also made sure we honored all the first responders who helped the community through the pandemic.

John Van Donge has been a longtime asset to PAL, dedicating his time as a board member and chairman of the board over the past decade. He also sits on the board of the Santa Barbara Police Foundation. John has a successful career in wealth management, currently serving as Managing Director at Stifel, the sixth largest brokerage firm in America, and as a partner in the Private Wealth Service Group.

“We are thrilled to come together in person this year and honor John Van Donge and community first responders. PAL is grateful for their contributions to our organization and to the community as a whole. This event will be a wonderful evening to recognize them and raise vital funds to support PAL’s programs,” said Kent Wojciechoski, Chairman of the Board and Founder of PAL, in a press release.

The evening also included the first-ever showdown between the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Santa Barbara Fire Department.

“It was very close, but Santa Barbara Fire won,” Ms. Lugo told News-Press. The cooks were Sgt. Ben Ahrens of the Santa Barbara Police Department and Jeremy Denton of Santa Barbara Fire.

“We were able to honor our former, Leslie Marin. Leslie is an incredible young woman who earned the Presidential Award and gave the Santa Barbara City College valedictorian speech and received a full scholarship to UCSB. Leslie recently earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCSB and received another presidential award,” said. Ms Lugo.

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