Sometimes it does take a village — or, in our case — a community, to help a child.
We are aware of the wonderful social service agencies that exist to help children and need to reach out for assistance in their endeavors.
But what happens, when the table is turned, and it is the child who reaches out — not to help himself, but to help others?
A case in point is 16-year-old Casey Parker, a junior at Venice High School.
As a freshman, Casey qualified to participate in a Leadership program for students who organize school-wide activities and promote school spirit.
That was the beginning.
Then he became interested in a Renaissance program, fundraising for gifts to congratulate students with a 2.0 or better GPA (grade point average).
This is where Casey blossomed.
His first activity was a pancake breakfast he experienced as a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Police Explorer.
He even got an award from the Venice Marina Lions Club for ticket sales, presented at an LAPD Pacific Boosters luncheon.
For a school breakfast to benefit his school Renaissance program, he went door-to-door in his neighborhood and sold 400 tickets, generating $2,000.
This experience taught him how to talk to people and set goals. He set as a goal for himself selling a certain number of tickets each day. He even went out on his rounds in the rain.
His mom, Debbie, went with him.
“Some people were so kind and others slammed the door in our face and screamed, ‘Get out of here,’ ” she says.
Casey had all the food donated. Because he put the food together free he was able to give the entire $2,000 to the Renaissance program.
Then Casey was told to get three sponsors for a click pen. He didn’t stop at three. He got six.
He came up with additional ideas — bumper stickers, lanyards and other items. He knew the concept.
“Make it small, print a lot for a low price and put a sponsor on it,” he says about his methods.
Casey has one attribute that seems to be forgotten by many adults and youths and that should do well for him in the future. He thanks advertisers and sponsors for their contributions.
He showed all his sponsors their ads and purchased plaques for sponsors of a 3.75 GPA Banquet.
He also placed a “Thank You” ad in The Argonaut.
“That’s how he raised $30,0000 last year,” says his dad, Larry.
In addition to raising an incredible amount of money, Casey also logged over 1,000 hours of community service last year.
In ninth grade, he tutored a special education student, Adam, who has since graduated but still stays in touch by calling the Parker family every day.
Casey also participated in peer mediation by helping students resolve problems.
When does he study?
“Casey has a tremendous memory,” his father says. “He gets practically all A’s. I never see him doing homework.”
Casey’s knack for selling ads even landed him a job. Because the staff at The Oarsman, the school newspaper, saw how many ads he could sell and sponsors he could put together, they asked Casey to work for them.
He started a Media and Technology Club that produced a newspaper, The Venice Network, and sold $5,000 worth of ads. The paper was distributed to neighbors, businesses and the student body.
He’s contacted six other area high schools to sell ads for their papers.
There are two people Casey acknowledges for helping him in his success.
The first is Sibyl Buchanan, director of community affairs for Playa Vista, whom he met “while working the LAPD Pacific Boosters luncheon,” says his father. “She was one of his mentors, whether she knows it or not.”
When Casey called Sibyl to be a sponsor, she gave him the whole scenario on the different levels of sponsorship and told him what to do.
Donald Trump, who would never know it, is Casey’s other mentor.
“Larry, Casey and I watched The Apprentice together since Day One,” says Casey’s mother.
“We watch it religiously and learn so much,” his father agrees. “That show has done so much for him — how to approach tasks and accomplish them.”
“And not giving up,” adds his mother. “You learn a lot of good tactics and what to stay away from, and personality problems that can get in the way of getting a job done,” continues Larry. “The way you sit down and analyze the job, lay out your plan, then execute it — some of it’s unrealistic but basically that has given him a jump start on doing tasks.
“He looks at stuff as a task.”
Casey always had the innate capacity to accomplish things on his own.
His father remembers that when Casey was two years old, they were at a park. Casey was on a swing and wanted to be pushed.
“We’ll be right there,” his father told Casey. “We looked up and the man who had his child on the other swing was pushing Casey.
Casey had said, “Mister, would you push me?”
“He didn’t wait for us. If you tell him to wait, he’ll get it done right away. We then realized that he had the ability to get things done for himself.”
Casey’s activities during the last several years have not been lost on his father. He, himself, has been transformed, in a way.
For one thing, his father says, “It was the 400 people (who purchased pancake breakfast tickets) who really convinced me that this is a great neighborhood.”
“I saw how much the community got involved with him, which made me feel like we should be doing it too. If strangers can give him money, maybe we should give to others too.”
Casey’s father owns the Big Daddy’s restaurant on the corner of Ocean Front Walk and Market Street in Venice and decided to do something more on a continual basis.
“It’s easy for us to give pizzas and we give to a few different charities,” he says. “It’s like karma. You get back what you give and you give what you need.”
Casey has been hanging around Big Daddy’s since he was six years old.
“The early experience was a blessing in disguise,” says his father.
It will be interesting to watch Casey’s career.
He’s off to a fast start.
He’ll probably give Donald Trump a run for his money.