Seven years ago, Ethan Dettenmaier had a dilemma. His young daughter, Shawn, was confused that her friend was leaving town due to homelessness.
The friend’s family lived across the street from the Dettenmaiers, but were evicted from their house.
Shawn, in third grade at the time, spontaneously offered to have the friend stay at the Dettenmaiers’ house. She began crying upon realizing that would not be plausible.
“I held her until the wave of emotion had passed, and later that night she came into my room,” he said. “And she said: ‘I know what I want to do. I want to give people homes for Christmas.’
“We couldn’t afford that obviously, but I figured we could give Christmas to people who couldn’t afford homes,” he said.
Thus, the radio producer of Combat Radio decided he would pay out of pocket, if he had to, for the purpose of giving hundreds of children an all-you-can-eat brunch on a December weekend.
“We decided we’d cook them breakfast with Santa, bring in all these cosplay characters and celebrities to work it, hand out presents,” Dettenmaier said. “A lot of these kids have never had that, and we wanted to help those in need.”
Thus, the Combat Radio Christmas Event for Social Services was born. The journey to getting it off the ground wasn’t easy. Dettenmaier had connections as a former Warners Bros. feature developer, but was turned down by many local dining establishments that did not have room or the money to offer him help for his idea.
“I went to every restaurant in town, and a lot of people turned me down and said they couldn’t help for whatever reason,” he said. “All these places said no, and then a miracle happened.”
Salt Creek Grille came through to meet Dettenmaier’s request. Pancakes, bacon, doughnuts, cheesecake, and other foods provided by Salt Creek Grille will be served that day, all bought by Detternmaier himself.
Now, in 2018, more donations have poured in compared to previous years. Dettenmaier had raised $14,149 on GoFundMe as of Friday to provide the food and entertainment for families in need.
“We have a lot of celebrities coming in because I get them with my connections through radio,” he said. “Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Disney princesses. We’ve had one of Disney’s last Imagineers, Bob Gurr, come in. There’s a lot of folks from down in Los Angeles willing to help us out here, like Mayor (Eric) Garcetti.”
Dettenmaier plans to bus in 600 families in need from various social services organizations in Santa Clarita, he said.
The goal is $16,000, although Dettenmaier still has to pay out of pocket to get the buses.
“But it’s worth it to help these people out,” he said. “The first year, we barely pulled it off, but now people have shown more interest in helping out.”
There will also be a silent auction and raffle tickets. Volunteers who want to get involved or businesses that would like to donate food can contact Dettenmaier through the Combat Radio Facebook page to get involved.
The event will be held at Salt Creek Grille on Dec. 1 from 7 a.m. until noon.
The GoFundMe is available at https://www.gofundme.com/Combat-Radio-Christmas-Eight.