License To Inspire: Actor Quinton Aaron Visits Venice PAD

ABOVE: Actor Quinton Aaron with Venice PAD Manager Timothy Pardue.

At the Teen Project’s Venice PAD on Windward Avenue celebrity visits are a common occurrence; actor Ellen Page has popped in, and more recently actor Quinton Aaron, who starred along Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side,” dropped by to help inspire the local homeless youth of Venice.

Sharing pizza and inspiring stories of how he himself was close to being homeless, Aaron made a big impact on the 15 or so young people who had come to meet the 6’8” actor – and it was not just because of his height. Aaron says he fully supports the work of Teen Project and the PAD.

“What this organization and Teen Project is doing, they’re doing it right,” Aaron says. “They’re making a difference. The children are our future and they’re working to make sure our future is looking pretty bright.”

PAD Manager Timothy Pardue describes visits from people like Aaron as “very inspiring” and that overall celebrity visits are important to a charity like the Teen Project as the awareness helps increase donations and the more money the organization has coming in the more kids they can get off the streets.

Since March the organization has helped 53 young people off the streets. However as the tourist season in Venice quiets down homelessness is on the increase.

“We’re getting really busy,” says Pardue. “It’s getting cold everywhere and a lot are coming to Venice to escape the winter everywhere else.”

One of the local youth who got to meet Quinton Aaron was Jacob, a teen who has been homeless in California for about three weeks and in Venice for only two days.

“I have a tent, that’s my house,” Jacob says. “I have a three-bedroom tent. It’s huge.”

He had been trying to get back home to Colorado.

“Before I got out here I was trying to get back home,” Jacob says. “They [Teen Project] just told me about a job so I’m going to do that and get back on my feet.”

Jacob says meeting Aaron was inspiring for him.

“Inspiration comes from a lot of different things,” Jacob says. “You can get inspired from people, you can get inspired from art, you can get inspired from nature. For someone of his stature to come yeah, it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to me because I like sports.”

Aaron explains that it was being cast in “The Blind Side” that saved him from the streets.

“‘The Blind Side’ happened, literally right in the nick of time,” Aaron says. “I never stopped believing that it was going to happen and it took a year to happen, but it came right on time.”

After the success of the movie, Aaron decided to pay it forward and start his own foundation.

“At the time I was speaking a lot at schools, talking to kids from a motivational standpoint telling them my story and my background,” he says. “I’ve been through a lot of bullying in my life in my past and a lot of kids who were approaching me were asking me how did I deal with it? How did I deal with being bullied, and how did I deal with the fact that nobody around you likes you, or wants you around, or that you’re never accepted?”

Aaron says he was bullied mainly for his weight.

Pardue says many of the homeless kids in Venice have been bullied.

“Absolutely, a lot of them have been bullied, a lot of them have been sexually abused, a lot are LGBT and they’re rejected by their families and they’re rejected by their towns,” Pardue says.

Lauri Burns, founder of the Teen Project, says that Aaron not only represents the anti-bullying movement but also foster kids after his work on “The Blind Side.”

“People look at Quinton and they know who he is and they know that he represents foster kids and I can’t tell you how many of these kids come in here,” says Burns. “Even today there were two foster kids sitting on the couch in the front and they tell their stories and you realize again and again kids are leaving foster care to homelessness and they’re coming from all over the United States to Venice Beach for the sunshine and the resources. When someone like Quinton gets involved they really get it, they get that it’s even bigger than anyone can imagine, that it’s happening all over America. It’s a godsend that he’s come to us and helped us to represent the lives of the foster kids in America.”

Aaron says he is looking forward to working with the Teen Project through his foundation the Quinton Aaron Foundation.

“Over the years the numbers of child suicides have grown, mainly because of bulling and kids being picked on because they felt they were not accepted or people were saying mean things about them or doing mean things to them and now it’s even evolved into social media. I don’t know if we can fully ever stop it one day but if enough people get involved in protecting these kids, seeing to it that we have a zero tolerance for things like that we can make a difference. I believe that and that’s why I do what I do,” says Aaron before he sweeps Burns up off her feet into his big strong arms, the kind you want lending a helping hand to get kids off the streets in Venice.

Fatal Hit and Run – Police Still Searching for Driver


Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying
a motorist who left the scene after fatally striking a 15-year-old boy in Palms while driving a stolen sedan.

The teen was crossing mid-block when he was struck about 8:40 p.m. Sunday in the 9900 block of Venice Boulevard at Hughes Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The car was a maroon 2001 Buick LeSabre, California license plate number 7KWC773.  The sedan, which had an attached bicycle rack, was reported stolen earlier this month, LAPD Lt. Joseph Sanchez said. It was last seen heading west on Venice Boulevard.

The coroner’s office has not yet released the name of the victim,
however news reports have identified him as a previously missingFullSizeRender-23 teen, Jack Phoenix. Phoenix had been last seen in Culver City and previously spotted in Venice Beach.

Anyone with information about the driver is urged to call LAPD
Detective Mustafa Hassanzai at (213) 486-0690.

After-hours and weekend calls
can be directed to (877) LAPD-24-7 and anonymous tips can be supplied by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

All Ends Well In Four-Week Search For Missing Dog

It’s a common sight along Ocean Front Walk: homemade signs plastered on the trunks of palm trees, gaffer taped to light poles. Every sign tells a sad tale of a missing pet. There’s been dogs, cats, and birds. Four years ago a local posted a $5,000 reward for his missing turtle.

Recently the common black and white posters have made way to bright neon signs and armies of volunteers who pound the streets, canvassing locals and local businesses, handing out flyers, and rallying the troops to help find a missing pooch.

Lucy, the missing blue pit-bull, made the news after weeks of campaigning saw her return safely to her distraught parents. More recently Buster Brown, a 20-pound labrador chihuahua cross, was returned to his mom, Marina Peninsula resident Kristy Turner; he was hungry but safe.

Buster had only been living with Turner for a month. A rescue dog, he came from a hoarder and had had no socialization with other dogs or humans, “he was very nervous around people and loud noises,” says Turner.

It was while walking one evening that Buster got away. A trainer had recommended a different collar for Buster. When Turner was trying it out he became spooked and slipped out of the collar at Mast Street and Pacific Avenue. Because he was such a nervous dog Buster, for four weeks, remained at large, with the occasional sighting here around the Peninsula and near Grand Canal.

All the while Turner never gave up hope that Buster would return saying, “when I adopted him I made a promise I’d provide for him and care for him. I knew if I stopped searching I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. Because of his background I felt terrible that he was missing and having to fend for himself.”

Turner enlisted help from professional pet finder Sarah Sypniewski of Ninja Dog Concepts, along with several locals who all volunteered their spare time to hunt for the missing Buster.

“It takes dedication but also, it takes a group of people,” says Turner.

This is something Finn Egan and Antje Hinz could attest to. The parents to missing dog Lucy took time off work and welcomed an army of volunteers who offered to help search for the missing pit bull.

“If it wasn’t such a sad experience for us it actually would be beautiful just because of the amount of support we’ve received. From friends, friends of friends, and strangers,” Hinz said at the time of the search.

Turner says she would not have found Buster if not for so many people getting involved in the search. Sypniewski was integral to the success of Buster’s homecoming.

“I was so overwhelmed and when I met Sarah she said, ‘we’re going to get Buster back. We’re going to get him back but we’re going to have to work for it,’” and they did, for four weeks straight.

Sypniewski is a Los Angeles-based lost pet logistics and search specialist. Her business, Ninja Dog Concepts, is all about returning lost pets to frantic owners. Since 2011 she has helped find more than 100 dogs directly and countless others remotely.

An animal rescuer, with five dogs of her own, Sypniewski holds a B.A. in psychology, has marketing experience, and seven years of logistical and operations experience. All skills that she uses to help track down lost pets.

“In each missing pet’s photo, I see my own dogs’ eyes, and I work around the clock to find them as if they were my own,” she says.

Turner says Sypniewski, amongst other things, helped guide her in making signs that stand out, advised her to go around to local businesses, and helped her put out a pet amber alert on, through which 500 neighbors were alerted of Buster’s missing status.

Another of Sypniewski’s tips was to hand out flyers to people around the neighborhood. It was one of these flyers that ultimately saved Buster when a local woman Taylor Alexis discovered a sacred and emaciated Buster in the rocks of the north channel jetty at the south end of the Marina Peninsula.

Alexis reported Buster to a nearby lifeguard who recognized him from a flyer and called Turner. While waiting for Turner to arrive the timid Buster disappeared from those watching him, crawling into the rocks.

“No one could see him from the beach side but a kayaker paddling by spotted him from the water and waited, watching him until I arrived,” says Turner.

The kayaker left before Turner was able to say thank you.

“She was key in Buster’s recovery, and we’d like to thank her.”

Turner hopes the kayaker might read this and come forward.

As traumatic as the month of searching was for Turner she believes, “it happened for a reason. Since Buster’s been home he has a whole new confidence and strength he didn’t have before. Plus it warmed our hearts to see how many good people are out there.”

Turner says finding Buster has been proof that hard work and persistence pays off, saying it is “such a good reminder that you can do it, you can achieve it.”

Mayhem When Car Careens into Marina


The driver who lost control at the wheel of a white Audi last night, flying through 2 barricades and into the Marina at the end of Pacific Avenue on the Marina Peninsula, is still missing.

Venice local, Mr Electric said, “I heard the car down-shift at about Yawl and accelerate. Pretty soon after I heard a loud crash. It didn’t sound good.”

Witnesses said the car looked to be traveling at around 65 miles per hour and didn’t stand a chance on the tight turn at the end of Pacific Ave., careening through barricades, over the rocks, and into the water.

LAFD winch the white Audi out of the Marina

As the car began to sink the driver managed to climb out and swim to shore. Witnesses on the scene believed he may have been drunk, as he clambered up the rocks, blood and water dripping from his body. The man FullSizeRender-20rested a moment on a nearby bench. People asked him if anyone else was in the car. The man said, “No” before he ran off.

Sirens screamed through the streets of Venice and Marina del Rey
as several emergency crews responded to the crash. LA County Fire Department Lifeguard Division divers braved dark waters and lowFullSizeRender-21 visibility to locate the sunken vehicle, which was eventually winched out of the water.

So far police have not located the man.


Marina del Rey local Jasmine Walton arrived at the scene shortly after the car broke through the 2 barricades and plunged into the water.  In the video below she tells Yo! Venice what she saw.



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