Ever wonder after the true sense of Christmas amidst classic Hollywood glamour, designer Christmas trees, inspiration as pure as the driven snow and It’s a Wonderful Life sensibilities? If so, look no further than The Hollywood Museum’s Annual Dolores Mission School Holiday Tour and Lunch! Hosted by Hollywood Museum President and Founder Donelle Dadigan, the revered Historic Hollywood Oasis welcomed nearly 100 Dolores Mission students the first week of December for an early Christmas celebration like no other! The old Max Factor building-turned-Museum, awash in designer Christmas trees of every palette, designed by Bob Pranga (aka Dr. Christmas), not only opened its doors to students, but invited all manner of local politicians, celebrities and child stars young and old to join in the festivities and assist in distributing Christmas stockings galore, along with some very special gifts, to select students.
Dolores Mission School, which takes great pride in educating “the whole child academically, spiritually, physically and morally” was established in the early 1950s and caters to some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Los Angles. Established specifically to serve the children of the families residing in the flats of Boyle heights: Pico Gardens and Las Casitas specifically, it is considered quite the “place of hope”. A sanctuary in a neighborhood wherein 30% of inhabitants’ incomes are spent on rent, 92.3% of the population is Latino, and 40% of families are not only single parent but live decidedly below the federal poverty level, Jesuits have lent quite the supportive hand to Dolores Mission’s challenge and promise alike! Boasting a nutritional program via the help of Proyecto Pastoral, Dolores Mission School offers an after-school program with which to be reckoned and, to this day, is a place of utmost possibility furnishing an unparalleled education to children of all ages—well, within the realm of grades K-8 anyway…
The exceptional morning which commenced at 10 am with cookies and camaraderie, progressed to an introductory ceremony to some rousing speeches and sentiments, continuing with a tour of the four-story museum itself; concluding with lunch at the ever festive and authentic Mel’s Diner next door!
Politicians and Celebrities in attendance i.e. Child Stars Past and Present included: Tom LaBonge, Erin Murphy aka Tabitha on Bewitched, Darby Hinton otherwise known as Israel Boone on Daniel Boone, Chloe Noelle, aka Emma Garza on True Blood , Joey Luthman of The Goldbergs, Modern Family and iCarly fame, Raegan Revord from Young Sheldon, Lofton Shaw from Inhumans, Lulu Lambros from Stuck in the Middle, Casey Burke from The Middle, Jax Malcolm from the upcoming film Mid-‘90s, Landon Giminez from Resurrection, Connor Dean from A Wrinkle in Time, Ava Cantrell from The Haunted Hathaways, Kinana Lyz Rivera of Kindly Kiana, Sean-Ryan Petersen from Clique Wars, Savannah Liles of American Horror Story fame, Mateo Simon from Broken Vows, Kacey Fifield from Diane, Jerry and Friends, Hunter Payton from A-Z, Ciara Wilson from It’s a Smackdown and Bizaardvark, Amber Romero from Clique Wars, Trina McGee of Boy Meets World Fame and Jillian Estell from The Night Shift.
And each had their own unique and inspiring words to impart.
When former councilman Tom Labonge speaks you know you’re in for a treat! Possessing the countenance of a one-time pro-football player, teddy bear, and take-charge politician combined, said erstwhile council member always delivers a sound Los Angeles history lesson to magical aplomb and flourish!
“So, anybody know the actor George Marino, [from] the silent day? Anybody ever been in Silver Lake and Marino drive? That’s named after George (saying the first syllable of Costanza initially—Been watching many Seinfeld Episodes of late Mr. LaBonge?—If so, then I would say you have impeccable taste in TV programming!) Marino—[He’s the one] who developed Silver Lake… I wanted to salute Mr. Marino [today]: Your quarterback, the one who’s the conductor of the orchestra, who’s bringing you here…courtesy of [Ms.] Dadigan… Now real quick, in 1781 44 people of diverse backgrounds walked 9 miles…from the Mission San Gabriel to Los Angeles…right there by Union Station and that formed the Pueblo and Delores mission has been there for 100 years plus serving the cause. Your school is so important!”
LaBonge could only close with something customarily perky and upbeat! “It’s important to follow your dream. Your dream is out there but you learn when you get involved, take advantage and go to a great school like Delores Mission and be here today. Congratulations everyone!”
While current councilman Mitch O’Farrell was not able to be present, O’Farrell’s representative was there with proverbial bells on—ringing in messages both informative and inspirational:
“Does anybody know how many categories there are on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? …Five: Movies, Television, Radio, Live Performance and Music… The important thing to remember is that anybody whose name you see on the street, in any of those categories, or any of the things that you see in this building; something from a movie or a TV show [that someone worked on]…those people started just the way you did… I just want each and every single one of you to know that anything that you really set your mind to you can do… It doesn’t matter other than if you believe you can do it in your head and in your heart I promise that you can. I’ve seen it happen in my own experience with people that I know and you’re going to meet people here today that that happened to.”
Eddie Mendoza, assistant to Senator pro tem, Kevin De Leon had a rousing tale to tell regarding the Los Angeles politician presiding over the Dolores Mission community:
“I work for Senator Kevin DeLeon who represents us in this community and the Delores Mission Community…just a little bit about him: He was raised by a single mother with a third-grade education. He remembers taking the number 3 bus to La Jolla to help his mother clean houses in one of the richest neighborhoods of San Diego and he learned from his mom how to work hard… He did well in school, he graduated, [then graduated from] college…and used what he knew to help people…taught English as a second language…taught people how to apply for citizenship, and he used what he knew to help the people that…helped him in his [formative] years… He [later] organized…folks in the community to go against…Proposition 187 [a bill that was very bad for the immigrant community]. They won, and it was a huge victory! …[After that] he wanted to do some more good for the community. [So] he ran for assembly. He won, and he ran for the senate and he won that too! Four years later, he was picked by his peers to lead the state senate and he became the first Latino to lead the state senate in over 130 years in the state of California. So, the lesson is, if you are going to do something, do it with intentionality. Do it with good intention, and do it to help folks like your mothers, your fathers like your teachers, the people who are going to help you along in life, and do it for other people.”
The speeches that most captured the enterprising aura and ambiance of the museum however, came from that of present-day child stars emanating from all walks of life, introduced by everyone’s favorite childhood mom (if you are from MY generation anyway) Dee Wallace, best known as Mary from E.T. the Extraterrestrial:
“I’m really happy to be here… I look forward to this every year (tearing up). Here I go. I get emotional when I’m here because I really think it’s important that we give back and to let all of you know how much you have in front of you. I’m one of the stories that Dan and Eddie were talking about. I come from Kansas City–very, very poor family. My mother worked all my life, took buses to work. My Grandma raised me and made most of my clothes because we couldn’t afford to go buy them. My father was an alcoholic who ended up committing suicide, and I just had a dream that I wanted to act. [But before that] I worked my way through college. I got my teaching degree, and taught a year of high school. Then I went off to find my dream, and I want you to know, this is probably the most important thing I could ever tell you so listen: Your present circumstances…have absolutely nothing to do with your future…”
“[Last but not least] I’m going to tell a really quick personal [thing] that just happened to me. I had a beautiful young woman come into work for me and unfortunately her husband just got arrested for drug possession and sales. She has a 7-year-old little boy. I could not keep her on legally after this and it really hurts my heart because she is a very, very good person who wants a better life. So, I want you to know that your choices affect everybody else in your life and trickle down and go out and out and out! So…the more you love yourself and do good for yourself and for the world, the more the world responds and the better the world becomes.”
As an aside, but certainly not an oversight, in light of the current situation in Southern California, Wallace could not help but give nod, credit and compassion where it was due:
“You know we have to take a moment and really acknowledge these fires. So many people that wanted to be here with you today literally got yellow tagged this morning and were forced to evacuate their homes, so we stand in good feeling and blessings for them today.”
13-year-old Hunter Payton, best known for his work on A to Z and Criminal Minds was the first present-day child actor to speak. And ever since the first Annual Dolores Mission Party at the Hollywood Museum, back in 2015, has always been a fan and press favorite pertaining to his personable countenance and beyond-the-years maturity.
“I…want to leave you with a quick little quote that I hold [near and dear]: ‘It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.’ I’m telling you, it’s okay to dream…It’s okay to try to be the best at everything, sports, music, no matter what it is. But at the end of the day you need to remember that the best thing you can do is just be the best person you can be, ‘cause you want to look back at life and be proud of who you were…and remember that whatever you do in life, you’ll excel at it because you’re being the best you could be.”
A 16-year-old Ciara Wilson, best known for her role as Vicki ‘Hot Head’ Fuego on Bizaardvark had this to impart:
“I just wanted to share with you one of my favorite quotes that has gotten me through tough times, [and that is], ‘When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, show life that you have 1,000 reasons to smile.’”
An 18-year-old Amber Romero just fresh from wrapping her role as the heroine in the impending film Cazadora had this to say:
“The holiday season is one of my favorites because it is all about giving back and helping others and I want to give all of you a piece of advice that I found helpful when achieving my dreams: Please never give up…because the ones that don’t…always succeed. You notice that there are people who give up because they’re too tired, and they don’t believe in the themselves but if you believe in yourselves, you can do anything!”
Joey Luthman was up next boasting credits as a Series regular on the National Geographic’s TV Series The Long Road Home, Disney’s Ant Farm and as Roger on ABC’s The Goldberg’s, ABC’s Modern Family and Nickelodeon’s iCarly–to which Dee Wallace could only jokingly exclaim, “You have more credits than I do. Stop it!”
Luthman’s sentiments revolved more around that of an immediate nature:
“I hope everyone’s doing okay with all the fire and all the smoke. It’s been really crazy these past few days. But thank you all for coming out. It really means a lot, and this museum is so historic!”
James Cavallo, best known as Larry in the popular thriller Haunting at Silver Hills 1 and 2 could only joke, “Hey guys. Who’s excited to be here? You…just got out of school on a [Thursday], I’d be a lot more happy!”
Teen actor Jax Malcolm, who just finished shooting Jonah Hill’s directing debut as Chris in the film Mid ‘90s had this to say:
“A few words of wisdom that always helped me… is that when one door closes another one always opens, so you need to remember. It doesn’t matter if anything goes wrong ‘cause something better’s going to come…”
Savannah Liles who plays Priscilla on American Horror Story on FX Network and appears on Henry Danger on Nickelodeon had this famous sentiment to impart:
“I’m originally from Arizona but I came to California to pursue my dream of acting. Acting is a big part of my life and I don’t know what I would do without it. I just wanted to say if you work hard, you can do anything you put your mind to. I have a quote it’s from my favorite actress Audrey Hepburn and it says “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’.”
According to young, fresh faced actress Jillian Estelle, best known for her role as Riley on The Night Shift, and Eloise Anderson in Black or White starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, “My favorite quote is ‘you can achieve what you believe,’ so believe in yourself and you can achieve it!”
But the most In depth sentiments came from current child actor Choloe Noelle , best known for her work on HBO’s True Blood as Emma Garza:
I know a lot of people have goals and people always say, ‘Follow your dreams and believe in yourself,’ which is so true, but sometimes your goal can feel impossible, especially since a lot of us are younger…it can seem so far away and [like] we can’t do anything until we’re adults. But that’s not true because there are so many ways that you can just work towards your goal. For instance, if you wanted to be an artist you could draw something or paint something every day. If you wanted to be a video game designer you could make character sheets or look up Youtube videos on coding… With the world we live in today, with technology [we have] there’s nothing you can’t learn… You can find it online. You can find classes. If you want to be an actor, you can sign up for school plays or even write movies of your own…film it on your own with your friends. There are so many things that you can do, and you just need to know to never let anything stop you. …It’s never too late to start but it’s never too early to start. You can start whenever you want I mean… Maybe babies are a little too young, I don’t know but… I hope you have a great holiday and thank you so much for coming up.
To this Dee Wallace could only respond, “I didn’t even start ‘til I was 27. Okay so there’s another message for you all. It’s [also] never too late!
But nothing said it better than Dee Wallace’s closing sentiment in her more-than-uplifting speech:
“Henry Ford, I’m sure your teachers have told you who Henry Ford is…He created the Ford Auto Empire, and said, ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ … Einstein our great scientist, said ‘The most important decision you ever make is, is the world friendly or is it hostile?’ [The way you view the outside world] makes a big difference in what you’re able to create by whether [or not] you think the world’s on your side. And I hope today that you really, really get how many people are on your side to help you, encourage you and support you in the dreams that you are choosing for your life!”
After all this, the Buppalapaloo Bear distribution to the sixth grade girls with the help of Daniel Boone’s Darby Hinton and Gilligan Island’s Dawn Wells, an all students’ tour of the museum and lunch at the ever retro-festive Mel’s Diner!!!
All in all a most inspiring, warm and fuzzy morning/afternoon!
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