Almost 11 years ago, Ethan Dettenmaier’s daughter, Shawn, watched her friend across the street lose her home.
After being devastated by her friend’s loss, she decided to get people homes for Christmas. While that task may have been too large to handle, the now 18-year-old college junior and her father founded an organization, Make The World A Better Place, dedicated to serving foster youth, families and children in social services.
Make the World A Better Place hosted its 11th annual Celebrity Christmas Party at Salt Creek Grille in Valencia on Saturday. The organization dedicates a day to providing breakfast, presents and creating a marvelous experience for youth and families in need.
“She (my daughter) was in third grade and she said, ‘I know what I want to do for Christmas, Dad. I want to get people homes,’” Dettenmaier recalled, “And I said, ‘We can’t do that, but we can do Christmas for people who don’t have homes.’”
Dettenmaier said he went to almost every restaurant he could think of to ask if they would be willing to host this holiday party. Everywhere he went, restaurant owners declined his request until he met Greg Amsler, owner of Salt Creek Grille.
“Eleven years ago, when Ethan came up and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about doing a breakfast with Santa,’” Amsler said. “This is the way I envisioned it. And to be honest, I couldn’t think of any reason not to do it. It was all we could do.”
It’s a tradition for Make The World A Better Place to host its Christmas party at Salt Creek Grille and invite families from across Los Angeles County. Dettenmaier invites foster youth, parents struggling with finances, families who are homeless, women living in shelters with their children and anyone in need to the event.
Dettenmaier reaches out to his vast connections from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, local biker clubs in the Santa Clarita Valley, veterans, celebrities and others to ensure the party is always a success.
Former world surfing champion Shaun Tomson attended the Christmas party after Dettenmaier interviewed him on Combat Radio.
“I work with kids all over the world, about 150,000 kids a year, and I help them find a purpose by having them write ‘The Code’ 12 lines (words of empowerment),” Tomson said. “It encourages positive-decision making and it encourages the feeling of power in their lives.”
Tomson said he lost his 15-year-old son to a poor decision in 2006. After the loss of his son, he wanted to help youth and he began writing books, speaking to kids all over the world and attending events to encourage youth when life becomes difficult.
“I think at this time of the year, we should focus on helping others be better,” Tomson said.
Charlie Schlatter, an actor known for his roles on the CBS series “Diagnosis: Murder” and the film “18 Again!’” has voiced several characters such as the Flash and other superheroes. Schlatter said he’s come to a few of the parties in previous years and he shows up ready to help in any way he can.
“It’s just fun meeting the kids, to do anything to make their day a little more special,” Schlatter said. “They (the kids) want to see that people are here.”
Dettenmaier said the SCV Latino Business Alliance played a vital role in “making the party happen.”
Alliance members Katrina Winkler, Chris Cardenas and Dennis Sugasawara said they’ve previously helped out, but this year stepped up to ensure the party had enough food and presents.
“Santa Clarita has always been a community of giving,” Sugasawara said. “And whenever we hear a cry for help, a lot of us will jump in and say, ‘What can we do?’”