Thinking back while looking forward for the 9/11 Day of Remembrance

Boys from the Saugus basketball team dug out a massive rock out of the last hole intended for a tree to be planted as part of the 9/11 Day of Remembrance. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

By giving back to the community and remembering the sacrifices made Sept. 11, 2001, HandsOn Santa Clarita performed multiple service projects across the SCV on Saturday.

The 9/11 Day of Remembrance began with a kick-off event outside of Firehouse Subs, which gave HandsOn Santa Clarita a $6,000 donation.

Afterward, roughly 300 volunteers were split into groups for six projects. These were held at several locations, including Help the Children, the Castaic Animal Shelter and the Domestic Violence Program of the Child & Family Center. What would have been the seventh service project, fire restoration for buildings in the city, was cancelled due to the heat.

One of these projects included planting trees for the city at Towsley Canyon off The Old Road.

Forty-two boys from the Saugus High School’s junior varsity and basketball teams planted 30 trees by a creekside in order for them to obtain water and stay alive, said Ryan Newman, a site leader.

“They (dug) the holes, they put the tree in, they fill in the holes and they made a 6-foot well around it,” he said. “They made sure they made a barrier around it six inches high so they can water the trees.”

Saugus High’s basketball team also volunteered last year to help, said Seema Shah, executive director for HandsOn. To help bond together as a team, they asked for work that was a difficult, outdoors project, said Shah’s sister Nina Chouinard, whose son helped with the tree-planting. As long as there are projects in the future, this particular group will continue to help the community, Chouinard said.

“I usually don’t do much, but today is the day I can really help out,” said volunteer Eric Hoxha. “It really motivated not just me but all of us on the team, to really push ourselves and help.”

After overseeing the boys dig out a massive rock in order to plant the last tree, Shah drove to the William S. Hart Pony Baseball and Softball field, where 60 children involved in ROTC helped dismantle and paint fresh planks for some of the field’s bleachers.

Jonah Feder, Daniel Scott, Maria Garcia, Mason Ganshirt and Ark Bunyan pant new bleachers at the William S. Hart Pony Baseball and Softball field for the 9/11 Day of Remembrance. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Watching the young volunteers, Robert Newman, a member of HandsOn’s board of directors, joked that the group “got more paint on their clothes than on the bleachers.”

Joking aside, at the center of Day of Remembrance, a common goal by bringing out children from across Santa Clarita isn’t just to help their community, but also to work in the spirit of the first responders in New York City had in mind when the World Trade Center was attacked, Shah said.

“They don’t remember,” Chouinard said, referring to the younger children involved. “It’s like our grandparents telling us about Okinawa or Hawaii or whatever, World War II. It’s like our story to them, this is what happened, this is what we saw, this is why we do what we do.”

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