‘Angels’ come to Strikes Unlimited

Foster youth enjoy evening of bowling, gifts
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald and Press Tribune editor
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The foster youth from Koinonia Family Services were bowled over by kindness Tuesday evening, as Strikes Unlimited hosted the second-annual Angels in the Alley Christmas event.

The festive party began last year to raise funds for foster kids, and grew into Angels in the Alley, the nonprofit organization of Strikes Unlimited. Thirty-eight foster children from the Loomis organization were invited for an evening of bowling, pizza and other fun activities just in time for Christmas. For many Koinonia youth, the party was one more reason why the holidays are so special this year.

“This Christmas I’m not going to be doing drugs – I’m going to be with family,” explained 17-year-old Justin Christoff. “And then I’m going to come back to Koinonia, and that’s just like another family, and it’s going to be the first Christmas I’ve really ever had to spend time with family with a sober mind, and it’s going to be the first Christmas I’m going to get presents, so that’s another bonus.”

Angels in the Alley raised $12,000 for the Koinonia youth this year, double last year’s efforts. The majority of the money, explained Strikes owner Kari Pegram, came from local home builders and title companies, including Taylor Morrison Homes, which brought in the largest donation, at $3,000.

“They are each getting a $200 gift card to Target, pizza, cupcakes, cookies, soda, free bowling,” Pegram explained. “They all sat on Santa’s lap. They’re all getting their caricature drawn.”

Some of the youth, she added, had never experienced sitting on Santa Claus’ lap before.

“This is one of the opportunities that most of these kids have never had,” said Bill Ryland, Koinonia director.

Dorian McCoy of sponsor First American Title helped organize the event, and even though knee surgery had confined her to a wheelchair, she was nonetheless chipper as she zoomed around Strikes, dressed, as most of the volunteers were, as one of Santa’s helpers.

“We raised $12,000 – it’s exciting!” she beamed. “We were able to do so much for the kids, plus give Koinonia just a big check (to) go out and buy them jeans and tennis shoes and school supplies, whatever else they need.”

Ian Young, 17, said he has been in foster care for nearly a year, and that his life has been turned around thanks to Koinonia.

“Before I came into Koinonia, I was living a life of just using drugs and abusing people, disrespect, all types of just impossible, crazy stuff – just situations and stuff that no one would really want to be in,” he said. “Basically I came in here with the same attitude I was on the streets with, and I just really felt like this was just kind of a home dynamic.”

Young explained that he has been able to connect with positive influences through Koinonia, as evidenced by the dozens of smiling faces at Angels in the Alley.”

“For a lot of the kids here, they’ve never done this before,” he smiled. “And even for me – I haven’t been bowling in years, and I think this is a lot of fun, just getting together.”

According to its website, Koinonia’s mission is “to provide the highest quality treatment foster care, adoption and family service programs available for children, youth and their families whose special needs can be met through services delivered, supervised and supported by professional agency staff.” That mission, said Escrow Coordinator Julie Dvorsky, is one that her company, Standard Pacific Homes of West Sacramento, is happy to support.

“We participated last year for the first time,” she said. “It was so moving and so fun to come here and see the kids and actually be able to see the people who received the gifts that we’d been raising money for for a few weeks, that everybody was on board this year.”

Ryland smiled as he watched the hubbub of Angels in the Alley around him, full of laughing youth enjoying their evening of bowling and camaraderie.

“I get to work where miracles happen every day,” he said. “Every doggone day.”