While just one aspect of a much larger drive to bring Christmas presents to kids in need, the Combat Radio Celebrity reading of “A Christmas Carol” at The Canyon Santa Clarita on Sunday drew in hundreds, including local dignitaries.
Outside and in the halls of the Westfield Valencia Town Center was a true Hollywood spectacle – Jeeps from Jurassic Park, Stormtroopers and other movie characters taking pictures with attendees, and a red carpet for the night’s guests to walk down and take interviews from the press.
The show itself was equally impressive in scale, featuring a live musical guest, magicians from the Magic Castle and of course the celebrity reading of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
“This is where we invite celebrities, talent from TV, movie legends, Oscar winners, Emmy winners, all of that. They come in attendance or several of them all participate in our actual show,” said Red Dodge, producer of Sunday’s event. “They’re up on stage and then other people who don’t have an actual reading part will do all the live Foley art and those kinds of positions.”
The show itself was done in the manner of a live radio show with, as Dodge said, live Foley artists providing sound effects and a band providing the score.
The guests brought in for the show, just to name a few, included Keith Carradine (“Deadwood,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Big Bang Theory”), Adrian Paul (“Highlander,” “SWAT,” “Dark Shadows”), Carolyn Hennesy (“True Blood,” “Cougar Town,” “General Hospital”), and Rico Ross (“Aliens,” “Highlander,” “Mission: Impossible”) and Nicholas Christopher (“Hamilton,” “Lazarus: The Musical,” “Motown: The Musical”).
As part of the fundraiser, there were also several notable items up for auction – including guitars autographed by Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton and John Mayall.
There were a lot of moving parts to this drive, with Sunday being its climax, but it began with a month-long toy drive through “Make the World a Better Place,” a nonprofit that provides toys and meals for dependent families of local organizations, such as “Bridge to Home.” The Combat Radio show was part of this drive, with several attendees bringing unwrapped gifts to be donated to kids at a later event at Salt Creek Grille.
A couple of the guests bringing gifts were Valerie Bradford and Barbara White, of the Santa Clarita Valley chapter of the NAACP. They said an NAACP member was the bridge between Combat Radio and their chapter.
“It’s all about community. She’s a member of ours and we’re here to support the community – not only our membership, but the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Bradford.
While the events in totality are for the kids, the event on Sunday was definitely for the adults – with the reading and proceeding comedy often profanity-laden, but in good fun. Putting on a good show for adults was key to making sure kids got the Christmas they deserved, according to Dodge.
“The event itself is really fun. It’ll feel amazing, when this is all done because we can take all this money and then we’ll attribute it to Christmas for the kids,” said Dodge. “Ethan Dettenmaier, who’s a big producer of the event, was just having lunch in a restaurant the other day talking about this event and his server said, ‘Are you talking about the breakfast at Salt Creek? Because I was at your very first one, I was in a foster home at the time.’”
Dodge said this child, now an adult, was inspired by the Christmas breakfast and stayed in school, eventually going to college and went into business management – landing a job as assistant manager at the restaurant where Dettenmaier was dining.
“He basically attributed the breakfast that he had as a motivating factor to continue on the school and everything,” said Dodge. “That’s the reason we do that, is to give these kids that one little glimmer of hope.”
Dettenmaier’s daughter, Shawn, had actually started “Make the World a Better Place” as a child after encountering a friend who had lost their home during the holidays. Now an adult, and an actress during the night’s reading, she recounted how her childhood idea had ballooned into the large event held on Sunday.
“When I was in the third grade I had a friend across the street who we used to drive to school every day and one night we saw them packing all their stuff into the car, they had lost their house,” said Shawn. “I was very upset about this when I told my dad, around Christmas, what I wanted to do – which was to give houses to people for Christmas. Obviously that’s a little bit hard to do. So he said, ‘What we can do is we can bring the holidays to people who don’t have houses,’ and so I started a charity for homeless families, homeless individuals.”
Shawn said while their fundraising event happens once a year, their efforts never stop.
“Our journey is year-round, and we and many other charities have benefited. Countless people need all the help we can get, especially around this time of year,” said Shawn. “I feel like the homeless crisis – it’s getting worse. I feel like the way people treat homeless people is without compassion. They don’t see them as people. I think that’s the main problem in regards to this issue. And I just wish people had a little bit more compassion for others who may be struggling.”
City Councilman Bill Miranda, who was in attendance with Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs, echoed Shawn’s sentiments by saying that helping kids is a priority of his.
“I’ve been involved with Combat Radio for six years now… we’re trying to celebrate the kids, we’re trying to… give toys to the kids. All the kids that come to the event walk away with a swag bag full of goodies and pictures of all the wonderful things they see in here. It’s just fantastic,” said Miranda. “What brings us here is love for the kids… we want to raise money and help the kids and it’s the right time of year to do it.”