Hope4Kids to raise funds to benefit foster children

Race, festival planned for May 2

Tami Barnett said representing foster youths as an attorney was at times very difficult because the children—removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect— didn’t have many of the same opportunities available to other Ventura County children.

She said foster parents who receive a stipend to help cover the basic costs of caring for a child may not have the funds necessary to pay for braces, summer camp, art classes and sports equipment— commonplace activities and services most children take for granted.

“Many of my clients needed things that there was no money to pay for,” Barnett said. “I thought, if we could have less restricted funds that we raised ourselves we could get those needs met more quickly.”

That is why Barnett, now a recruitment coordinator for Ventura County Children and Family Services, took matters into her own hands.

Three years ago she and her friend Dawn Groom founded an annual event called the Hope4Kids Festival and Run to help pay for services not covered by Medi-Cal, the county or other organizations.

This year the event will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat., May 2 at Camarillo Community Park on Burnley Street.

Barnett said all of the proceeds will be distributed to children in need through RaisingHOPE Inc., a nonprofit that aims to bring awareness, education and services to foster children and families.

She said the family-friendly event, made possible by a host of volunteers and sponsors, is expected to draw a large crowd.

The goal is to raise at least $40,000 this year.

For a flat entry fee, children and adults will have the opportunity to run to raise money for children in foster care. There are 5K and 10K races at 8 a.m. and a one-mile fun run at 9:45 a.m.

Runners have the option of collecting additional funds for RaisingHOPE through fundraising pages set up by event organizers.

There will be vendors from local businesses as well as organizations and agencies throughout the county that support foster children to let people know how they can get involved.

The event will also include a fair, sponsored by Microsoft Inc., to give individuals and families interested in foster care or adoption the opportunity to view short videos of children who need homes.

Social workers will be available to answer questions about foster care and adoption.

Barnett said she is determined to help all children find a home, whether a permanent adoptive home or temporary foster care.

Barnett said the inaugural run and festival inspired a couple in their 60s to become foster parents.

They attended the second annual run and festival with a 5-yearold girl in their care.

“They were so thankful for the event,” Barnett said. “They said, ‘Tell people they are never too old to do this.’”

Elizabeth Thasiah, the foster home recruitment, development and support program manager for the county, said the event will serve the most vulnerable population in the community.

“These are children who, at no fault of their own, have been removed from their homes,” she said. “We want those kids to have whatever they need to have a normal childhood.”

Thasiah said the goal of the county, whenever possible, is to reunite children with their families. In the meantime, she said, children need a support system during one of the most traumatic periods of their lives.

“We need families to provide that stability and comfort,” she said. “We are looking for families that care about tucking them in bed, reading them stories and asking them how their day went.”

But those families, like the children they foster, need support.

Thasiah said that although foster families receive a monthly stipend for each child they care for, that money hardly covers the extras needed to provide a child with some semblance of normalcy.

“We want these children to have a normal childhood,” Thasiah said. “We want to ensure they receive whatever they need so they can participate in after-school activities, enrichment programs, summer camp and music lessons.”

Everyone can help, even if they don’t want to be foster parents.

Barnett said the event will show the many ways people can serve others. For example, some choose to be court-appointed advocates for children in the system, while others provide respite care to foster parents by offering free baby-sitting services.

“There is a place for everyone to help kids in foster care,” Barnett said. “We encourage families to come out, bring their kids and have a great day.”

To learn more about the Hope4Kids Run and Festival, visit www.hope4kids.myevent.com.