Olivia Garcia

Christmas is only a few days away and while many of us are busy planning gatherings and exchanging our gifts of appreciation to friends and families, local charities are also hoping to be included on the to-do list.

Charity giving comes in many forms, whether it's a monetary donation or in-kind. If you have not gotten around to giving to a local cause, consider the following:

* Craft room and face-painting volunteers are needed for the San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center's Winter Playground. Officials say this is a neat opportunity for high school students needing community service hours.

The Winter Playground provides youth activities such as ice-skating, Santa visiting and more.

The following are the dates and hours of volunteer slots needing to be filled: 5:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. today and Tuesday; 11:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; and 5:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

If you don't have cash to give, this is a great idea to give in another way. Please call the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House at 327-4647 ext. 4290 to volunteer. The Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House gets $1 for every entrance into Winter Playground.

* This is not necessarily a direct-to-charity donation, but a local nonprofit is seeking funds on behalf of one of its teens participating in its youth leadership programs.

Latina Leaders of Kern County recently discovered that one of its young Latina Leaders has been living by candlelights for months and limited food. Her family went through some extenuating circumstances and fell behind on their electric bill.

"The young lady spoke up and let us know the family has been going through tough times," said Norma Rojas-Mora, Latina Leaders president, who withheld the identity of the teen's name to protect her family's privacy. "She rode the bus to get to our (young Latina Leaders) session. Her mom had been injured and unable to work until recently, which is why they fell so far behind. I spoke with the mom and at first she refused the help because she is so embarrassed. I assured her we would be able to help while respecting their privacy. The young girl is a top student and has to go to her neighbors' to complete school assignments since they were left without electricity."

The group set up a donation website for those who wish to contribute: http://www.gofundme.com/LLKCYouthElecBill.

* For those who care about understanding the growing college expenses, here's an opportunity to help high school students preparing for the AP exams by participating in a local 5k.

The Shafter High School GE5K Streak is taking place 9 a.m. Jan. 17 at the campus.

The Shafter High School AP Club & the Shafter Running Club host the event. Proceeds from the 5k race will benefit Shafter High School students taking the AP exam.

The pre-registration deadline is Jan. 6 and fees are as follows: $20 for those over 20 years old; $15 for those between ages of 19 to 14; and $10 for those ages 13 and under. Late and race day registration fees are $25 for those over 20 years old; $20 for those between the ages of 19 to 14; and $15 for those ages 13 and under.

Another option is to sponsor a student by giving $15.

Checks should be made payable to Shafter High AP Club.

For more information, visit Shafter High's website at shafter.kernhigh.org or to sponsor or donate, contact April Martinez or Jadene Watson at 746-4961 or email: april_martinez@kernhigh.org or jadene_watson@kernhigh.org.

RECORD-BREAKING: Speaking of races, hats off to Ed "The Jester" Ettinghausen, 52, who completed his 39th 100-mile race at the Celtic Winter Classic 12/24 Hour Run held at Highland High School on Saturday and Sunday.

The Wildomar resident and CPR instructor is looking to set a new Guinness world record by running the most 100 miles in a year.

He plans to run No. 40 before the end of the year. He had set a Guinness world record a few years ago for having run the most marathons (26.2 miles) in a year.

As he covered his miles on Saturday, I had a chance to briefly chat with The Jester, who earned the nickname for his signature jester hat that complements him at every run.

Not only is he an inspiring example for runners, he is a model for us to strive to stay healthy and set new goals in our lives to challenge us and live better.

Some familiar faces in the running circle were on the scene, including the super ultras Galvin Gonzalez, Trace Bee and Natalie Horvat.

Adam Setser, a longtime cross-country and track and field coach, and Andy Noise, coach of the Bakersfield Distance Project, put on the event.

Proceeds will benefit the Highland High School cross country team, whose athletes were out in full effect running the 12-hour relay course.

And a shout-out to Rodriguez and Associates law firm, which sponsored the 12-hour relay team, Team Time Chasers, that I was part of and am happy to report that we managed to complete 95 miles in 12 hours.

This was a wonderful, challenging experience that fosters camaraderie and good sportsmanship.

Organizers say they welcome more participants, volunteers and support for next year's event. I hope to see it grow next year.

Olivia Garcia is a Californian columnist and editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines. Send her tips at ogarcia@ bakersfield.com. Her work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are her own.

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