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Pleasanton: 25th anniversary gala tonight to benefit REACH housing

$100 a ticket fundraising event at Castlewood Country Club will help needy

Pleasanton residents don't just talk about being inclusive -- they really are.

Kay King, a board member of REACH, said the city and the community have helped the organization to purchase homes that are rented to young men and women with special needs.

"We have nine homes, with 26 tenants," King said. "The bottom line is our tenants, that they are safe and happy, and we can offer them a secure place to live where they feel like part of the community."

REACH is applauding its 25th anniversary with a fundraising event, REACH for the Stars, at Castlewood Country Club from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday. Cost is $100 for an evening of tasty tidbits, fine wine, drawings and celebration.

REACH -- Resources Education Activities Community and Housing for Special Adults of the Tri-Valley -- was founded in 1990 by a group of parents who wanted their adult offspring with developmental disabilities to be able to live locally.

"The founders had that vision, they wanted their children to develop as best they could," King said. "Our tenants may have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, Asperger's. We want them to thrive and flourish and be active in the community."

One tenant recently moved out to attend UC Davis. Others have stayed as long as 15 years. REACH has a waiting list that fluctuates between 20 to 30 people, male and female.

King, board chair, is planning the fundraiser with vice chair Sharon Almeida, CEO of Cents & Sensibility Inc. in Pleasanton, and treasurer Pat O'Brien, who is CFO for Leisure Sports.

"Our volunteer REACH board members come from different walks of life but we all have a passion to be part of these people's lives," King said.

One highlight of the evening will be the premiere of a video by Future Films, which has several REACH tenants in its program to train videographers.

Although REACH's original focus was housing, it has expanded to provide other services, addressing and providing fitness, social and educational opportunities.

King started her retirement volunteer work with the special needs community as a basketball coach for RADD (Recreational Activities for the Developmentally Disabled) athletes. REACH has been a longtime financial supporter of RADD, providing uniforms, equipment and scholarships and sponsoring its annual Winter Ball.

"Whatever disabilities they had disappeared as I began to understand them and love them for who they are," King recalled. "This made the cause where they could live independently all the more meaningful for me. Why shouldn't they live independently? Why shouldn't they work at Safeway?"

King said that the need is growing, partly due to the rise in diagnosis of autism and partly to the growing population in general. The board stays alert for grants, below-market rentals and creative financing. Brian Gentry, an executive with Fremont Bank, has been a key board member in this regard, King noted.

Another part of the mission is maintaining the homes, so each one will be the best looking on the block.

"The homes have to be in a good neighborhood that is accessible to public transportation," King said. "We have a property manager who does all the maintenance; he is a handyman by trade, who hardly charges REACH anything."

For more information and to learn about helping with donations of money, household items or talents, visit www.trivalleyreach.org. Tickets to the gala can be purchased online, by calling 980-6739 or at the door.

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