Category Archives: Featured News

Ventura County’s 35th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday observance

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Ventura County is pleased to announce that its 35th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day observance and birthday celebration, will be held on Monday, January 18, starting at 10 a.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday, which celebrates King’s birthday, honors his legacy, and lifts up civil rights.

This is a free all-virtual, online event that will be broadcast via multiple online platforms, including Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube. The program will be rebroadcast at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, on January 18, at 4:30 p.m., where it may be viewed with safe social distancing from parked cars.

This year’s event theme, “Lives end when we are silent…Get in trouble, good trouble.” incorporates an homage to the late civil rights hero John Lewis, who was a close associate of Dr. King and made famous the words “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”

The keynote speaker will be Tamika Jean-Baptiste, AMGEN Executive Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. Mrs. Jean-Baptiste has over 25 years in the biopharmaceutical field and has worked for Amgen for over 19 years, serving in the capacities of Director of Sales, Key Account Manager, and District Sales Manager. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Arkansas State University and a Global Executive MBA from TRIUM (NYU, London School of Economics, HEC Paris). Throughout her career, Tamika has been a champion for diversity and a mentor to others to find their authentic voice and professional purpose.

The event will include brief comments from elected officials, spiritual music, and a virtual Freedom March, as well as the winning speech from the annual Alpha Kappa Alpha Youth Speech Expo.

The Committee still has an online presence through its website and social media. The website address is http://www.mlkventuracounty.com. The Committee is also on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/mlkofventuracounty, and on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/MLKventura.

From its inception in 1986, the Ventura County MLK observance program has spotlighted the positive achievements and accomplishments of the youth of our community. In previous years, the Monday program has drawn hundreds of people from throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
It was necessary to cancel the program only once, on January 17, 1994, due to an earthquake.

As in previous years, this year’s program promises to be an inspirational, informative, and enjoyable experience. We invite everyone to be a part of the activities and celebration of Rev. Dr. King’s life and legacy, by logging on for our first all-virtual event.

Welcome to the new CEO of Vista del Mar Hospital, Dan Powell

Powell was the former supervisor of impatient mental health services for Ventura County.

by Carol Leish

Dan Powell became the new CEO of Vista del Mar Hospital, a private psychiatric facility in Ventura, in December of 2020. He says, “My focus is to continue the exceptional patient care to the communities that we serve. This will include expanding upon staff and team development, since we have a good team of folks that work here now who really care about the patients that they work with. They provide safe, compassionate, and meaningful care to patients.”

Powell was the former supervisor of impatient mental health services for Ventura County. He supervised the impatient psychiatric unit and a short-term crisis stabilization program at Ventura County Medical Center’s Hillmont facility for six years. He has a master’s degree in clinical psychology; is a Marriage Family Therapist (MFT); is a Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst; and is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Specialist.

“My philosophy for treatment of patients, and my vision for treatment aligned,” according to Powell. “Thus, it was a good time to transition into the CEO role for me. I’m committed to providing exceptional behavioral health care to all patients in the communities that we serve.”

Changes have occurred at Vista del Mar since the Thomas Fire of 2017. According to Powell, “Now there is the opening of opportunities of expansion in order to provide more services, such as: outpatient and telehealth services. Along with rebuilding parts of the hospital, we are continuing to expand upon outpatient services, which includes reaching out to help more from an outpatient perspective.”

Powell said that, “With people coping with a stay-at-home order, there is more fear and anxiety of contracting COVID-19, along with fear of the future. Because of the current situation, we work actively with patients in order to address their needs and help them to better cope with depression and anxiety, especially with the possibility or occurrence of losing loved ones or of knowing others who are sick. We work with patients by treating their current symptoms and helping them to work through this process.”

“We are beginning to partner with St. John’s Regional Medical Center, in Oxnard, to jointly provide a crisis stabilization unit,” according to Powell. “This unit will be able to help more citizens of the county who need crisis intervention services. I’m pleased to work together and to be able to partner in order to provide this much needed service.”

Since coping with anxiety and depression, along with other behavior health needs, is as important as dealing with physical needs, especially during the pandemic, Vista del Mar Hospital offers needed psychiatric services, under the leadership of the new CEO, Dan Powell.

“There’s No Place Like Hope” for children with cancer and their families

When Jasmin was diagnosed with cancer, she was only one year old.

Every year, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) provides guidance and companionship, as well financial and emotional support to families in the Tri-County areas who have a child facing pediatric cancer. Last year and now, due to the pandemic, life has become tougher on these families who have a child who is immunocompromised.

Whether it be a single-family household, or an entire family in need, TBCF has offered hope, comfort and stability during this time, when they need it more than ever. Families battling pediatric cancer have been dealing with isolation, fear, uncertainty and the loss of “normal” for so much longer than we’ve been fighting this pandemic and they’ve been doing it alone. TBCF aims to help support these families with basic needs going into 2021.

One child TBCF has provided for throughout the years is Jasmin Castro from Ventura County, who has lived with cancer her entire life. Her story is truly one of courage, hope, and grit.

When Jasmin was diagnosed with cancer, she was only one year old. The treatments saved her life, but left her almost completely deaf, and with other disabilities. During this time, TBCF assisted Jasmin’s family with financial support, and she began attending their family support groups so she did not go through this alone.

Years later, when Jasmin was 10, TBCF and Santa Barbara Police Foundation partnered to raise funds for state-of-the-art hearing aids which was truly a miracle for her and her family. After Jasmin received the hearing aids, she heard birds chirping for the first time in her life and her and her family were so happy! With the help of the hearing device, her determination to succeed, and community support, Jasmin became a straight-A student, played softball, and danced.

As she continued to attend TBCF’s family support groups and became a role model for other children battling cancer. She helped other families feel less alone. Nothing could stop her. Then five years later, she suffered a brain aneurysm and was in a coma for 3 weeks. She lost her ability to walk, talk and eat, and she had to start over again. But Jasmin never stopped fighting. She went back to school and although It was hard, she never gave up. She graduated from high school with honors and is now studying to become a nurse. She has been attending Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s family support group for the past 17 years. Jasmin never gave up on herself and Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation will never give up on her.

Jasmin is just one of the family stories of hundreds of children in the Tri-County areas facing pediatric cancer and now these families need hope more than ever as we stay in lockdown. To learn more or make a donation and give a family hope during COVID-19, please visit https://www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org/

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation advocates for families living in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties that have a child with cancer by providing financial, educational, and emotional support.

Ventura Chamber of Commerce presents check to Ventura Fire Chief to support local Spark of Love program

City of Ventura Fire Chief, David Endaya; Ventura Chamber of Commerce CEO, Stephanie Caldwell; Ventura Chamber of Commerce 2020 Board Chair, Brad Golden; and City of Ventura Assistant Fire Chief, Matthew Brock at the check ceremony.

The Ventura Chamber of Commerce presented a check for $3,500 to Ventura City Fire Chief David Endaya at a recent City Council meeting. The check to be used in support of the firefighters’ Spark of Love Program that provides new toys and sports equipment to kids in need throughout Ventura County.

The Chamber’s support of this program has a rich history. Each year the Chamber hosts their annual Poinsettia Awards program, which recognizes those in the community who are doing great work in business, education, public service and the non-profit arenas. A popular component of the event is the Spark of Love toy drive. Over the years chamber members have donated thousands of toys for local kids in our community. This year due to COVID, the chamber was unable to host the annual event.

Then in partnership with Ventura Fire and Spark of Love, The Chamber planned a contactless drive through event at the Pacific View Mall, however, due to the State’s “Stay at Home” order this event too had to be cancelled.

“After speaking with Chief Endaya I knew that we could not let that stop us, we cannot let down these kids,” said Stephanie Caldwell, President and CEO of the Ventura Chamber. “I worked with our sponsors who generously agreed to use some of the funds originally earmarked for the Poinsettia Awards to support Spark of Love.”

On Tuesday, December 15, Chamber Board Chair, Brad Golden and Stephanie Caldwell presented the donation to Chief Endaya. Not only will these funds be used to purchase much needed toys for the program, but the funds will be spent right here in our own community, at local shops and sporting goods stores, increasing the power of the donation locally!

Special thanks to the generosity of members who supported the program with donations: Ventura Auto Center, Montecito Bank & Trust, California Resources Corporation, Ventura County Credit Union, Aera Energy, Christina Vanarelli, Inc. A Professional Law Corporation, Aegis Living, Bank of Sierra, Sespe Consulting, Tolman & Wiker Insurance Services, AT&T, So Cal Edison, UCLA Health and Channel Islands Designs.

The Ventura Chamber of Commerce is a membership-based organization that advocates on behalf of the business community. With nearly 700 members, representing more than 24,000 employees locally, the Chamber engages on a variety of issues that help to drive a strong local economy as The Voice of Business.

River Community Church, Spark of Love and Water’s Edge Restaurant distribute toys to needy Ventura families.

Pastor Jim Duran and volunteers brought joy to the needy.

by Richard Lieberman

On Sunday, December 20, the River Community Church along with partners Spark of Love and Water’s Edge Restaurant distributed over 2,000 toys to Ventura families in need. Water’s Edge Restaurant supplied a pre-packaged meal for each recipient and the church also supplied a gift bag filled with presents for children of each family.

Water’s Edge Restaurant has been providing meals for Tender Life Maternity Home, The City Center Transitional Living and The River Community Church since the Coivid-19 pandemic began. They have also provided meals for volunteers in the community.

Precautions were taken for a safe and secure community give-away that included everyone who participated having their temperature taken, they were asked about any possible COVID-19 symptoms, everyone is also logged, and a paper trail created for any additional follow up if necessary, mask wearing was required for all at the event. Also, hand sanitizers were placed at strategic locations on the church grounds, along with gloves.

“Shortly after the pandemic hit there was a restaurant that wanted to give back to the community, so they called Ventura Visitors Bureau and they contacted me, and I told them what we do, and they said however you want to do it.” Said Jim Duran Pastor of the River Community Church. “So, one day a week we get a food tray that goes to the City Center for Transitional Living, one day a week we get a pan that goes to the Tender Life Maternity Home and three days a week we get meals which provides meals to our volunteers here at the Church” added Duran.

Over one hundred families registered and participated in the give-away that included over 500 children. Each child received at least five toys each for an approximate total of 3,00 toys. “The toys are coming from Spark of Love supported by Ventura residents who have donated to the charity and we are a distribution point for them,” Duran added. “The community just came together incredibly well to bless these families,” Duran further stated.

Ventura three new City Council members

by Richard Lieberman

2020 is the first election for Ventura City Districts 2,3 and 7. The city shifted from citywide to district elections in 2018 when voters elected four city Councilmembers.

Doug Halter defeated incumbent Christy Weir in District 2. Mike Johnson won an open seat in District 3 vacated by Mayor Matt LaVere, who voters selected as a Ventura County supervisor. Voters selected Joe Schroeder in District 7 to replace retiring Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann.

The Breeze spoke with all three new councilmembers individually. We asked all of them the same questions to see where they stood on current and future issues facing Ventura.

Prior to the vote, all three candidates presented their top priorities for the city to voters. Here is what each promised.

Doug Halter, District 2

1) Balance the budget, 2) Review fees, processes, regulations, and technology to support our goals and encourage the private sector and government to work together, 3) Homelessness, affordable housing, and sustainable balance in housing stock, 4) Raise infrastructure standards for roads, sidewalks, medians, parks, and beaches, 5) Economic vitality, job creation, support for local businesses, 6) A plan and implementation strategy for sustainable water policy that includes viable sources, education, 7) Environment protection and education including beach management plan.

 

Mike Johnson, District 3

1) Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery, 2) Homelessness, 3) Housing Crisis, 4) Public Safety, 5) Water Rates, 6) Long term economic development.

 

 

Joe Schroeder, District 7

1) Promote health and safety, 2) Allocate resources wisely.

All three candidates promised to deliver economic vitality during their term as councilmembers. Improving the economy, however, is not within the City Councils jurisdiction. Councilmembers do not control which businesses move to Ventura. They also do not have any control to determine which companies should expand. However, they can make it easier for businesses to start-up or expand by easing regulations and reducing approval times.

Starting our interviews first was Joe Schroeder we asked:

What made you want to run for city council?”

“I retired June 1st this year as the CEO of Ventura County Credit Union, I had a great run there of eleven years where we did a lot of great things, I was looking forward to lowering my handicap and flattening my stomach, and travel then COVID-19 hit and then politics hit, and I really despise how polarized America is right now. It seems to me we throw the far left and the far right into Washington and Sacramento and we say they get along and out comes sausage and it is not good tasting sausage and its painful.

What are your priorities when you take your seat?”

So, I am not a specialist on water issues, and I know that some big capital that is going to have to be spent. I need to get a lot smarter on water issues. I must protect the beach and the coastal area, so I think I should, so I think there needs to be a lot of work done on the coastal plan, make it part of the general plan.

What would you do about the housing crisis?”

“A really big issue is that of affordable housing. The dilemma is people have a different vision of what they want their part Ventura to be, so at times you can talk to people and they say I am all for affordable housing, but it comes up in their neighborhood they are not for it. We are all going to have to give a little bit and we are going to have to work this out. Everybody needs a chance to get some affordable housing around them, but you cannot go nuts with it and build something that is twelve stories high.

Do you have any specific plans to recover from the devastation COVID-19 19 has brought to the city?”

“I have a hypothesis that had everybody worn a mask, and social distanced and shut down things for a while and stayed with that I think we wouldn’t be having this second wave. There is not an easy solution, but I think you listen to the medical people. So now let us work with business groups let us say to them lets be creative and innovative and ask what the city can do for them. How can we help you expand your business give grants? Make it so we are not going to lose 40% of our restaurants.

How do you intend to improve public safety and promote community policing?”

Half a dozen times over the years I have seen police intervene with someone who was a vagrant or homeless and I was so impressed with how the police handled it. So, some way we must find the right way to allocate resources to augment police. I would like to leverage social services when it comes to the homeless population.

Next, we asked Doug Halter District 2

What made you want to run for city council?’

You know this is not the first time I have run for City Council, I ran I think two other times, and my greatest passion is Ventura and I have done everything I can as a private citizen to try and make a difference. And as I turned sixty this year, I felt that it was now or never to really give it my all. Get on the council and help set policy and set direction.

What are your top priorities when you take your seat?”

Now that we are in districts, we must look at what your district would want and then you must look at what is in the best interest of the entire city? Well obviously, infrastructure is huge. The number one interface is walking on a sidewalk, driving on a street, speed limit issues, lack of stop signs where there should be one. So really upping the ante, upping the standards of our infrastructure. A huge priority for me is creating more certainty in our processes, because our processes are antiquated, we cannot see the forest for the trees.

What would you do about the housing crisis?”

Currently fifty percent of our workforce lives outside of Ventura and you see it going north and south and now you are seeing it going east. So, I would want to find out where are my friends and neighbors commuting to? I want to go to those businesses and say to them, would not you want to relocate close to where your workforce is. We have plenty of opportunity and we welcome you here in Ventura.

Do you have any specific plans to recover from the devastation COVID-19 19 has brought to the city?”

Wear a mask and distance as far as possible, try to minimize what you touch. In public I try to minimize what I touch just in case the virus is there. My life is an open book and I have worked on the AIDS epidemic for years and that is almost a forgotten pandemic and it has significantly changed my life and has taken away many of my friends at an early age

How do you intend to improve public safety and promote community policing?”

We really must take a deep look at it how we are spending our money and what is sustainable. We need to understand what kind of economic vitality we need to support the services we desire. I do not believe in defunding the police. I believe it is more about community policing, getting people to understand it is not us against them. We need the police to be well equipped for behavioral health. It is not just about getting someone off the street. I believe in transitional shelter meaning that there is case management there to determine if there is a mental health issue, or a substance abuse issue. We have made too easy for people to be on the streets. It is in nobody’s interest to have anybody living on the streets.

Our final interview was with Mike Johnson, District 3

What made you want to run for city council?”

I have been involved with city affairs for about ten years, and I started with my neighborhood and then got involved with the College Area Community Council and it just seemed like a natural progression. To get things done in this town I decided to step up and do it myself.

What are your priorities when you take your seat?”

The biggest issue we are dealing with is the pandemic. I expect it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The city is going to have to deal with the public side of that, and the economic side of that. I am not sure how our economy is going to fare over the next two years. Especially if we see the collapse of the restaurant industry. Pandemic response would be my priority, second would-be affordable housing. We need a city-wide inclusionary housing plan which would cover rental units and for sale units. We do not have that right now.

What would you do about the housing crisis”

We do not have a city-wide inclusionary housing plan. We need to look at the numbers and get a plan in place this year. Its going to be tricky because it is asking a lot of the community. We must face the problems of homelessness. We must increase the services in a way that makes the city better for people but also ways that we can do that while saving money. I would like to look at our Safe and Clean that operates out of the City Managers office and figure out what we can do

Do you have any specific plans to recover from the devastation COVID-19 19 has brought to the city?”

We can build and maintain a homeless shelter because the county is paying for half of it. At the same time, we need to keep on looking forward with the expectation that the county is going to step in and provide half the cost of everything. We need to work with the county as best we can to ensure across the county that people can get the services, they need without ever coming to Ventura. I would like to see more available beds in the shelter. In a functional sense is if the people in the shelter on Knoll Drive if there is a place for them to move into. I would like to see affordable housing on an exceptionally low level. We do not have enough of that kind of housing. It needs to be a pipeline not a dormitory. There needs to be a path to for them to get housing.

Community Memorial Hospital launches ROSA Total Knee Replacement Surgery program

Featured is Dr. Robert Mazurek and members of the CMH ROSA surgical team.

Community Memorial Health System is expanding its successful year-old ROSA Total Knee Replacement System program, bringing knee replacement surgery with the ROSA robots to Community Memorial Hospital. CMH and Ojai Valley Community Hospital remain the only hospitals in the Tri-Counties offering this cutting-edge technology.

The expansion of CMHS’s ROSA Knee replacement surgery program comes as doctors have performed over 50 knee replacement surgeries at the Ojai hospital using the ROSA Total Knee Replacement System, a new robotically-assisted surgical system that enhances total knee replacement surgery. After experiencing such positive outcomes with the ROSA robot surgeries in Ojai, CMH purchased two new ROSA robots for use at CMH. On December 4th, Dr. Robert Mazurek performed the first ROSA knee replacement surgery at CMH. Physicians can now operate a total of three ROSA robots at both the Ojai and Ventura hospitals.

“We are pleased to grow the ROSA surgery program and bring the latest technology to the communities we serve,” said CMHS President and CEO Gary Wilde.

Total joint replacement is among the most commonly performed elective surgeries in the United States today. The ROSA system combines robotic technology with industry-leading knee implants to help surgeons personalize knee replacement surgery for patients. The ROSA system offers a more precise knee implant fit. The ROSA knee system includes features to assist with bone resections and assessing the state of soft tissues to facilitate implant positioning intraoperatively. Data provided by the robot enables surgeons to use computer and software technology to control and move surgical instruments, allowing for greater precision and flexibility during procedures. The result is a highly personalized approach that eliminates many of the problems associated with traditional knee replacements.

Visit cmhshealth.org/rosa to learn more about the procedure.

Ventura River settlement agreement and monitoring of flow in the Ventura River

“This is a meaningful commitment to preserve river flows.”

The City of San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a local environmental group, have announced an amendment to their settlement agreement in the lawsuit regarding the pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River Watershed. Both Channelkeeper and the City remain committed to ensuring the protection of this local water source and the species that rely on it. The ongoing collaboration enables dialogue toward a locally developed solution to continue moving forward.

Under the modified terms, the City will continue the Pilot Program it implemented in 2019 to reduce its pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River when flows drop during dry times, in order to help protect wildlife that depend on the river. The Pilot Program was originally set to expire in March of 2020, however, the City continues to honor the flow regime set in place. The most notable change with the amendment is that the City will shut down most of its pumping facilities at Foster Park when flows drop below 4 cubic feet per second (CFS), and stop all production when flows drop below 3 CFS instead of 2 CFS. The City will also use its two new gauges at Foster Park to monitor the impacts, if any, its pumping has on flow in the river at these levels.

Additionally, the City and Channelkeeper have agreed to keep a dialogue open to identify additional ways to work collaboratively on other Watershed and habitat-related public relations efforts.

“We are pleased to continue this important dialogue with Channelkeeper, and I believe this amendment strikes a balance of addressing our concerns for the species and habitat while also meeting the needs of serving our customers,” said Susan Rungren, Ventura Water’s General Manager.

“This is a meaningful commitment to preserve river flows until a long-term solution is finalized, and we are glad to have been able to reach it through dialogue with the City,” said Ben Pitterle, Channelkeeper’s Science and Policy Director. The original agreement and this amendment provide added assurance to Channelkeeper for the better protection of steelhead during the dry season while the City works with other parties to propose a long-term framework that protects the Ventura River for steelhead and other instream uses and for the needs of water users, recreation, and the local economy.

Quilt Project hosts World AIDS Day Vigil at Ventura City Hall

The City classified the gathering as a free speech event.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020, was declared by the Ventura City Council as “World AIDS Day” in Ventura, with Quilt Project Gold Coast volunteers receiving the proclamation read by Mayor Matt LaVere at their November 26th Zoom council meeting.

And on World AIDS Day, Quilt Project Gold Coast displayed eleven locally made AIDS Quilts on the steps of Ventura City Hall from 2-5 for public viewing, as well as hosting a masked sunset vigil to remember those lost to the disease.

Attended by dozens of local residents and people from as far away as San Bernardino, the program for the vigil was conducted by Boardmember Mark Lager, with comments from Keith Coffman-Grey, a musical selection from Andy Edgar-Beltran, and invocations from Rev. Melissa Langdell and Deacon Joel Chan.

Ventura City Councilmember-elect Doug Halter read the proclamation for those in attendance.

Due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the event was masked and the only public observance in Ventura or Santa Barbara counties (with other groups opting for virtual forums) for World AIDS Day.

The City classified the gathering as a free speech event, allowing the Quilt Project to display the AIDS Memorial Quilts and invite the public to view them and remember the names of those lost.

City administration officials (led by Emily Fox of the Parks & Recreation Dept. and Mayor LaVere) were incredibly helpful in assisting QPGC with navigating the permit process, as well as generously waiving most fees for the free speech event.

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A fundraiser that will benefit Veterans and active duty military personnel

Frank Doyle navy veteran is close to the heart of Alicia Doyle.

The Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, is presenting the First Annual Operation Get Fit, a fundraiser that will benefit Veterans and active duty military personnel.

Veterans can benefit emotionally as well as physically from a no-contact, boxing-style fitness regimen that helps release stress, according to Alicia Doyle, a Ventura resident and Two-Time Golden Gloves Champion who trained at Kid Gloves Boxing in the late 1990s when only a few hundred women were competing in this male dominated sport.

This cause is close to my heart,” said Doyle, whose father, Frank Doyle, was a Navy veteran who passed away on September 21 at the age of 84. Her father, who earned his Master’s Degree in engineering on the G.I. Bill, was considered a brilliant rocket scientist who reaped many accomplishments – most notably approving the launch of the Cassini Satellite that studied Saturn and its moons.

Our main objective with this effort is to get Veterans into the gym to release stress, frustration and anger, which helps diminish Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Doyle, who serves on the Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation board of directors.

Veterans with PTSD are more likely than typical Americans to die of causes including suicide, according to Robert Ortiz, a Marine Veteran and founder of the Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation, which is the umbrella nonprofit organization for the Vet2Vet Veteran Education & Training Fitness Center in Simi Valley.

Exercise in the form of a boxing workout can play an important role in helping Veterans with PTSD to recover and regain confidence,” Ortiz said. “It also has the added benefit of addressing many of the mental and physical health problems commonly associated with chronic PTSD, including cardiovascular disease and depression.”

Vet2Vet – Ortiz’s nonprofit peer networking group for Veterans, armed force members and families – also provides advocacy and support for Veterans by helping them apply for benefits they deserve.

This helps Veterans avoid homelessness,” Ortiz said. “This fundraiser is not just about getting fit, but helping Veterans obtain the benefits they deserve because many of them don’t know the process of applying.”

In an effort to help these individuals, donations in the amount of $250 are being collected for Operation Get Fit. Each tax-deductible $250 donation will include the following:

A gym bag filled with boxing gloves, hand wraps, towel, water bottle, and other necessities needed to work out

Gym fees waived for the first month, with subsequent months discounted at $80 per month (reduced from $139 per month)

Training with professional boxing coaches, including Robert Ortiz, a Marine veteran and founder of the Kid Gloves Boxing Foundation; and certified coaches with Rock Steady Boxing, which empowers people with Parkinson’s disease to fight back through a non-contact, boxing-style fitness regimen and emotional support

Advocacy and support for Veterans who need assistance with obtaining military benefits

Donations can be made via check, Venmo or credit card. For more information, contact Robert Ortiz at 805-206-9403 or scrappum@gmail.com; or Alicia Doyle at 818-817-1421; alicia@aliciadoyle.com.