Bringing light to the children


    Four Malibu residents will participate in a 5K Run/Walk to benefit the Blind Childrens Center.

    By Frank Reneau/Special to The Malibu Times

    Sunday marks the 17th running of the Los Angeles Marathon, and when the thousands of athletes finally cross the finish line, many charities will have benefited from the day’s events and the fundraising that preceded it all.

    Four Malibu residents, Karen Chernof, Inge Jones, Nena Lauerman and Kristin Dark, will be among those participating in one of the afternoon’s events, the Los Angeles Times 5K Run/Walk, in support of the Blind Childrens Center.

    The 5K Run/Walk is one of the day’s three events that also include the actual marathon and the Acura L.A. Bike Tour.

    “This is my first year participating, but I’ve been involved with the Blind Childrens Center for three years,” said Dark. “It’s an amazing school.”

    Chernof, Jones and Lauerman also have a special connection with the center, and have decided to trek the roughly 3.1 mile course through the city as well.

    “I used to volunteer at the mile marker to cheer on the runners,” said Lauerman. “Last year, I ran with my six year old. Actually, we walked it. This year I’m walking with my four year old.”

    In their own way, they have each found a means of contributing to the center.

    Both Lauerman and Dark serve on the center’s board of directors. Chernof got involved with the charity through Lauerman, a close friend.

    “It is such a good charity,” she said, reflecting that “the Childrens’ parents may not be able to help as much.”

    Jones works as the treasurer for “Le Marraines” or “Godmothers,” a 14-member women’s support group for the center.

    “It’s a very exciting scene,” said Jones who would have been walking this weekend, but will lend her support away from the action from designated mile markers. “I fell down stairs at a concert and messed up my knee.”

    Though she expects to recover soon, Jones, along with the other three Malibu residents, realizes how significant fundraising events like these are. It also raises awareness about childhood ailments like blindness and the specific needs that children need.

    Few similar organizations offer the precise care the center has produced for the last 63 years.

    The center has been a staple in the Los Angeles area since 1938 and has worked vigorously to help children and infants who are blind. During that time, it has since evolved into a network that not only cares for visually impaired children, but also helps families and friends cope with the often-harsh realities of childhood blindness. It is the only on-site center of its kind in Southern California to cater specifically to children. That means the children can attend school there rather than have someone come to their homes.

    “The Blind Childrens Center is a service that directly impacts children and families,” said Lauerman, who is also the board president for the center. “There is so much love with the children and their families. It is really a fantastic school.”

    Support keeps the organization running.

    Events like the marathon are especially essential to the center, since it does not receive state or federal funding and relies solely on donations to operate. It is one of the more than 50 charities that will receive support from participants who have raised money from pledges and donations.

    Sunday’s marathon will be the 7th year the center has organized fundraising through the marathon with the help of pledges and individual sponsors.

    “We’re hoping to raise $35,000, and we also have the help of corporate sponsors,” said Heather Schraeder, assistant director of development for the center. “But we also receive private donations.”

    Schraeder, as well as others involved with the center, will cheer on the participants as they pass by one of the mile markers especially set aside at Crenshaw and Venice boulevards for the group’s students and families.

    “We’ll be set up on mile 11 of the 5K Run/Walk and we’ll have about 150 volunteers,” said Schraeder.

    But at the end of the day, when the last of the participants has completed the course, the true winners will be those who benefit from the education they receive at the center.

    “They may not have so many possibilities,” Chernof said. “You’ve got to do something for the children. They are the future.”