A child makes a friend with a pony at party for children experiencing homelessness at the Terasaki Budokan in Little Tokyo on Sept. 29.

A carnival atmosphere lifted spirits in Little Tokyo on Sept. 29 as community organizations presented their third annual party for families experiencing homelessness.

The Little Tokyo Legacy Foundation and Little Tokyo Business Association (LTBA) collaborated with local nonprofit Worthy of Love (WOL) to entertain approximately 250 children and parents from two shelters — Union Rescue Mission in Downtown Los Angeles and Salvation Army Transitional Village in Westwood.

Committee members Jan Fukuhara and Jeanmarie Hance register the volunteers.

Held at the Terasaki Budokan, the event received additional support from Budokan, Union Church of Los Angeles, Westwood Presbyterian Church, Fugetsudo, Bunkado Gifts, and Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California. Aloha Café catered the event.

More than 60 volunteers assisted with the festivities, which included a petting zoo, lantern-making, origami, drummers from Walter Nishinaka’s taiko class, face-painters, caricature artists, a pony ride, a photo booth, calligraphy, balloon sculptures, and California Shaolin Association lion dancers. Wesley Nishinaka coordinated the program and served as emcee.

Since 2013, Mary Davis and her husband, Ari Kadin, have been producing monthly birthday parties for the children and their families atop the roof of the Union Rescue Mission. Worthy of Love also serves three other family shelters in L.A. County as well as a shelter in Houston, Texas. Each attendee received a commemorative T-shirt. The event was livestreamed to the other shelters.

In 2019, LTBA approached Davis about expanding the party and bringing it to Little Tokyo.

“The fact is that the number of children experiencing homelessness has grown each year,” said LTBA President David Ikegami. “We are grateful to the organizations, churches, merchants, and individuals who generously contributed toward a memorable event.”

Anyone wishing to donate toward next year’s gathering should email board@visitlittletokyo.com.

Kids meet the Shaolin lion. More than 250 were treated to entertainment, food and activities in an event sponsored by Worthy of Love, Little Tokyo Legacy Foundation and Little Tokyo Business Association.

Photos courtesy LTBA

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