PAL benefit honors John Van Dongee and first responders
The Santa Barbara Police Activities League raised $175,000 during the 22nd annual Putting Kids First event Friday evening at the Santa Barbara Carriage House. This is the first event that has been held since 2019 due to the pandemic.
The silent auction raised $175,000, well surpassing PAL’s goal of $80,000, which will fund enrichment programming for disadvantaged youth in Santa Barbara. This year’s event honorees were John Van Donge and Santa Barbara first responders. Special thanks to the title sponsor, Jay and Talia Roston. The evening included a dinner, along with the silent auction.
Some of the notable auction items included a playbill signed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a pair of cleats signed by world renowned soccer player Pelé, Lakers packages and gift certificates to local Santa Barbara restaurants.
“It was special because besides being able to finally see each other and board members being able to get together 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 the News-Press.
“John got us through one of the roughest patches in PAL (which were) due to police protests and the fact that we hit an all-time low in financials due to the pandemic. We were afraid we were going to have to shut our doors.
“We are now established where we know we aren’t going anywhere for another 25 years. John also made sure that we honored all first responders that helped the community through the pandemic.”
John Van Donge has been a longtime asset to PAL, dedicating his time as a board member and serving as board president over the past decade. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Police Foundation. John has a successful career in wealth management, currently as a 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 gather in-person this year and honor John Van Donge and first responders in the community. PAL is grateful for their contributions to our organization and the community at large. This event will be a wonderful evening to recognize them and raise critical funds to support PAL’s programs,” said Kent Wojciechoski, board president and founder of PAL, in a news release.
The evening also included the very first Santa Barbara Police Dept. vs. Santa Barbara Fire Dept. cook-off.
“It was very close, but Santa Barbara Fire won,” Ms. Lugo told the News-Press. The cooks were Sgt. Ben Ahrens from the Santa Barbara Police Dept. and Jeremy Denton from Santa Barbara Fire.
“We were able to honor our alumni, Leslie Marin. Leslie is an incredible young lady that graduated with the Presidential Award and as valedictorian from Santa Barbara City College and received a full-ride scholarship to UCSB. Leslie recently graduated from UCSB with a B.A. in sociology and received another Presidential Award,” said. Ms. Lugo.