Attendees at the first Venice Beach Pub Crawl in 2011

Attendees at the first Venice Beach Pub Crawl in 2011

By Michael Aushenker

She has another year to go in graduate school. She hasn’t even created a name for her firm-in-progress. But social impact entrepreneur Aileen Martinez isn’t waiting for a cap and gown before merging her interests in marketing and philanthropy. Instead, she’s deciding whether to dress as a sexy Santa or the Scarlet Witch.
Martinez’s latest venture, Venice Beach Pub Crawl, takes flight this Saturday with a Windward Avenue route winding through Hotel Erwin, Bank of Venice, Danny’s and Nikki’s, with a culminating “Rehab” after-party at Canal Club. This year’s theme: “Santas and Super Heroes.”
Proceeds from the event will go toward both the Muscle Beach Toy Drive and Venice Symphony Orchestra, specifically toward instruments for the launch of the symphony’s music education program in February.
Currently working toward her Nonprofit Management & Fundraising degree at UCLA, Martinez, who calls her endeavor an annual event, actually started it in late 2011. Themed “Naughty ‘n’ Nice,” the inaugural crawl raised $2,500 for Boys & Girls Club of Venice.
Following 2011’s pub crawl, Martinez — who for five years worked at Boys & Girls Club of Venice as its director of marketing and development and as founding president of its Venice Young Professional Society — was so overwhelmed with balancing work, college, and family life, she briefly lost the thread on her mission. That is, until a dark event in October 2012 put everything back in sharp relief. It was then that Oscar Duncan, music tech coordinator and a teen mentor at Boys & Girls Club, was murdered outside of his mother’s Venice home.
“It was one of the most painful and heartbreaking experiences of my life,” Martinez said. “The night before he was killed, I remember talking to him before I left work. Hearing the news of his murder the next day was unreal.”
From the inside, the Venice resident saw her neighborhood rally in Duncan’s memory.
“There was such an outpouring of support from the community that this really was ‘the turning point’ moment for me,” she said. “From then on, I wanted to play a major role in the development of philanthropic giving within our community.”
She has since consulted on several benefits — most recently “Rose Reclaimed,” a beautification fundraiser hatched by Big Red Sun’s Selena Souders, which attracted hundreds last month to Souders’ Rose Avenue storefront.
“I love working with Aileen. She is a passionate, professional, and hard working,” said photographer Edizen Stowell, who, with Venice Paparazzi partner and husband Alex Stowell, hosted a photo booth at Danny’s Venice in 2011 and will run this year’s pub crawl photo booth at Hotel Erwin.
In addition to music training, the Venice Symphony Orchestra is planning “free concerts for local public schools where at-risk youth] can begin to appreciate classical music and interact with musicians,” said business manager George Francisco.
Since conductor Wesley Flowers and Venice architect Jason Teague founded Venice Symphony Orchestra in July 2012, the nonprofit has performed everything from original scores to classical arrangements of contemporary pop songs and genre mash-ups “from Beck to Beethoven,” as Francisco puts it.  The organization has staged a Fourth of July concert at Santa Monica’s Edgemar Center for the Arts, and, in Venice, a three-month run of First Friday concerts at Trim Hair Salon on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, September’s Art Crawl fundraiser and October’s Other Venice Film Festival at Love Shack.
“Cultural institutions are important mechanisms for binding people into real communities,” said Francisco.
Meanwhile, the Venice Beach Pub Crawl’s website promises “more than 200 Santas, super heroes, villains and vixens” converging this weekend on Windward to enjoy drink specials, DJ-driven dancing and even karaoke and costume play contests. So if you hear cries of “Ho! Ho! Ho!” or “Avengers Assemble!” on Saturday, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Venice Beach Pub Crawl begins 2 p.m. Saturday. Wristbands are $10 to $20. Visit  venicebeachpubcrawl.com.
The Muscle Beach Toy Drive is collecting unwrapped new toys from between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Dec. 7 and 8 at the Venice Recreation Center, 1800 Ocean Front Walk.
Venice Symphony Orchestra will also perform at 6 p.m. tomorrow night at the second annual Venice Holiday Sign Lighting on Windward Circle; on Dec. 14 at Intel Pop-Up, 1421 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; and on Dec. 19 at The Containers, 1410 Main St., during the upcoming “Holidaze” Venice Art Crawl curated by muralist Jules Muck.
Michael(at)argonautnews.com

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