Santa Clarita resident Eddy Perez said his heart sank when his young niece living in Ukraine called him.
Despite being of Spanish heritage, Perez’s wife, Elena Krasnikova-Perez, is from Ukraine and the couple have visited Ukraine many times to see family. With that being said, Perez said the war in Ukraine is personal to him.
“My niece called me and asked, ‘Uncle, when are you coming to get me?’” said Perez while wiping tears in his eyes. “I felt helpless like I couldn’t do anything to help.”
In an effort to support Ukrainian families in distress overseas, Perez organized a humanitarian charity rally at Bridgeport Park in Valencia to raise money for donations to the Children’s Medical Care Foundation in Ukraine.
The CMCF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to distribute pediatric medical equipment around the world, “ensuring that all children have equal access to the best medical care available.”
Dozens attended with all proceeds donated during this event going toward a CMCF crowdfunding campaign to bring critically needed medical supplies to Lviv City Children’s Clinical Hospital.
“We just want to make everybody aware that you can do something to help without being politically involved in agreements or disagreements,” Perez said. “It’s just to help the kids, who are the ones that are being affected the most.”
The event featured multiple guest speakers including Santa Clarita City Councilman Bill Miranda, and state Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, who both emphasized the importance of assisting the Ukrainian citizens under attack from Russian forces.
Miranda sympathized with the Ukrainian people, saying there are more than 3 million refugees fleeing the country, but more than 7 million displaced citizens who have lost their homes and are separated from their families.
“These are people who need your help,” Miranda said. “These are our people. These are human beings. These are mostly women and children that have no way to help themselves and have no way to protect themselves against the terrorism that’s taking place right now in the war in Ukraine.”
Valladares told the story of a Santa Clarita constituent whose sister was able to obtain a flight out of Ukraine to London, but accidentally left her visa behind. Valladares said she worked with Rep. Mike Garcia’s office and was able to find and send her visa number to her before she landed.
“We had sent her visa number to her by the time she landed in London and she was able to come home to Santa Clarita to be with their sister,” Valladares said. “This is personal to us.”
The rally also featured a live Zoomcast from Dr. Zoryana Ivanyuk, the director and country managing director of the CMCF in Ukraine, who broadcasted from a bunker in Lviv, Ukraine, urging people for donations.
“We are fighting against lies,” said Ivanyuk during her Zoomcast. “We have made the decision that truth will win. You can be a part of this and help us in any way you can. That’s why all your support and all your help is really appreciated by us.”
Along with guest speakers, the rally featured performances from various Ukrainian singers and multiple vendors selling shirts, flags and signage all showing support of Ukraine.
Through this event, Perez hopes people understand they are not helpless and there are ways they can help the people of Ukraine.
“I don’t want people to stare for hours at the TV being angry thinking there’s nothing they can do,” Perez said. “Yes, they can, and this is how they can help.”