EASTER IN SOUTH­LAND

Fam­i­lies mark the hol­i­day with spe­cial ser­vices, egg hunts, live rab­bits

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Carla Rivera and Abby Sewell carla.rivera@la­times.com abby.sewell@la­times.com

Wor­shipers gather for a non­de­nom­i­na­tional com­mu­nity sun­rise ser­vice in Hunt­ing­ton Beach. Other South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans cel­e­brated the day at churches, fes­ti­vals and char­ity events across the re­gion.

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia fam­i­lies came to­gether on Easter Sun­day to cel­e­brate in many ways, in­clud­ing with a tra­di­tional sun­rise ser­vice in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, spe­cial masses at down­town Los An­ge­les’ Cathe­dral of Our Lady of the An­gels and a host of char­ity events.

Arch­bishop Jose H. Gomez presided over a 10 a.m. Mass at the cathe­dral, speak­ing to thou­sands of Ro­man Catholics about the res­ur­rec­tion of Je­sus, say­ing, “We are all united as one fam­ily to­day in shar­ing the joy of Easter.”

He also re­layed a mes­sage from Pope Fran­cis that “Catholics ev­ery­where to­day should pray for peace.”

Thou­sands of peo­ple, mean­while, lined the blocks around down­town’s Grand Hope Park for an an­nual Easter fes­ti­val that fea­tured sack races, face-paint­ing and egg hunts.

All pro­ceeds from the en­trance fee, $10 for fam­i­lies of up to seven peo­ple, would go to pro­vid­ing birth­day par­ties for home­less chil­dren who rarely ex­pe­ri­ence the joys af­forded to other kids, said Kevin Haah, the lead pas­tor of New City Church, which spon­sored the event.

“We want to serve the peo­ple of the city by cre­at­ing a fun, low-cost event and at the same time help raise money for kids in skid row,” Haah said.

The fes­ti­val was ex­pected to at­tract up to 3,000 peo­ple from across the city. Manny Garcia stood at the back of a long line with his son, Hec­tor, 7, for a chance to go down an in­flated slide. Garcia said he hadn’t known that the event would help home­less kids, but that it made him glad he brought his fam­ily. Hec­tor was itch­ing to go down the slide and “then I want some bal­loons and candy,” he said, jump­ing up and down.

A few blocks away on skid row, dozens of vol­un­teers served more than 2,000 peo­ple — most home­less or near-home­less — honeybaked ham, chicken, mac­a­roni salad and red beans and jam­bal­aya, in a block party­like cel­e­bra­tion at the Mid­night Mission, which pro­vides shel­ter and ser­vices to the home­less.

Some fam­i­lies came to pick up Easter bas­kets for their chil­dren or cloth­ing dona­tions. Celebrity guests put in ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing for­mer Temp­ta­tions singer Louis Price, who took the stage to croon “My Girl” to a rapt au­di­ence.

“It’s some­thing very beau­ti­ful,” said Marta Mon­tero, 29, in Span­ish. Mon­tero, a nanny, brought her five chil­dren, ages 1 to 9, for the cel­e­bra­tion. The kids grinned as they got their pic­tures taken with the Easter Bunny, and then made their way to the back booth to pick up Easter bas­kets.

Ryan Navales, the mission’s manager of gov­ern­ment and public af­fairs, came to the mission through its work ther­apy pro­gram three and a half years ago, af­ter years of ad­dic­tion and off-and-on home­less­ness that had cost him his fam­ily. Events like the Easter gath­er­ing are im­por­tant for peo­ple who have lost ties to their loved ones, Navales said.

“We cre­ate our own com­mu­nity here for those that don’t have it,” he said.

In Pasadena, hun­dreds of par­ents and chil­dren gath­ered at the Kidspace Chil­dren’s Mu­seum for an an­nual Easter egg hunt and a chance to learn how to do the bunny hop and pet live rab­bits pro­vided by the non­profit Bunny World Foun­da­tion.

Katrina Ar­ciosa brought her son, Thirdy, 3, who had made his own pa­per bunny ears and an or­ange, car­rot­shaped bas­ket to col­lect his eggs.

“I hear some­thing,” Thirdy said, shak­ing a blue plas­tic egg. “It’s candy,” he con­tin­ued, but he was in­tent on wait­ing un­til he got home to open the prizes.

At the bunny pen, Lis­sette Roncagli­olo had brought two of her own rab­bits, Kelly and Valentino, and was help­ing the chil­dren gen­tly feed and pet the an­i­mals. Easter is a par­tic­u­larly haz­ardous time for bun­nies, with the an­i­mals bought as pets and fre­quently aban­doned once they grow and need more care, she said.

“When fam­i­lies re­al­ize they’re a lot of work, they get dumped at the shel­ter or set free, but they’re not ca­pa­ble of sur­viv­ing by them­selves,” said Roncagli­olo, who works with the Bunny World Foun­da­tion.

Se­bas­tianne Jorge, 8, wanted to know how Roncagli­olo could tell which bunny was a boy.

“This is my first time pet­ting a bunny,” Se­bas­tianne said. “It felt weird. But they’re my fa­vorite pet now.”

Christina House For The Times

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

CHIL­DREN COM­PETE in a sack race dur­ing an an­nual Easter fes­ti­val in down­town Los An­ge­les. Pro­ceeds from the event would go to pro­vid­ing birth­day par­ties for home­less chil­dren, an event or­ga­nizer said.

Christina House For The Times

WOR­SHIPERS GATHER for a non­de­nom­i­na­tional sun­rise ser­vice in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, one of many events to cel­e­brate Easter Sun­day across the South­land.

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