Harvest crush benefits City Hearts

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City Hearts teacher Erin Cottrell with students Jenny Becerril, Nathan Romo, Jackie Esparza, Diana Hernandez, Marina Estrada, Lupita Trujillo, Jessica Esparza, Diana Gonzales, and City Hearts co-founder Sherry Jason. Back row, from left: Jamil Chokachi, Carolina Herrera, Kelly Boczek, and Karla Gomez.

The 7th annual Harvest and Crush festival took place Sunday at Saddlerock Ranch, home to the Semlers and their Malibu Family Wines, to benefit City Hearts: Kids Say “Yes to Art, an outreach program providing art programs to at-risk youth.

The day was windy and warm, but that didn’t deter the hundreds of guests who showed up to feast on fare provided by local restaurants like Terra, Dukes, Geoffrey’s, Fins in Calabasas, The Melting Pot in Thousand Oaks, Bogies in Westlake and more. The Semlers generously poured their vintages of cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and children dined on hot dogs, ice cream and chocolate fondue. Cupcakes were sold for $20 a pop-one contained a pair of diamond earrings, which went to one gentleman who bought a whole plate of cakes. A silent and live auction also took place to raise funds for City Hearts.

On hand to recount his experience with City Hearts was Johnny Sandoval, a graduate of the organization’s scholarship program. As a high school senior living in East Los Angeles, Sandoval was arrested for graffiti vandalism for the third time. Instead of being sentenced to community service, Sandoval was ordered to enroll in City Hearts’ “Sentenced to the Stage” program. Teens on probation participate in classes in theater arts, playwriting, and stage preparation, and finish the program by participating in a full-scale performance for the teens’ parents, friends and community members.

Sandoval is now a business systems analyst for one of the top three mutual fund companies in the States.

“People were nice,” Sandoval said of his first experience with City Hearts. “I got the feeling that people cared.”

In addition to working toward a master’s in business in administration, Sandoval’s goals include “growing up to be a contributing member of society and to City Hearts.”

Sunday’s event raised a net of $95,121.