Christina Gray lives in Pleasanton with her husband, Lonnie, and their two children, Ethan and Lauren. She started her photography business, Bella Luna Studios, in 2005. Through her photography work and accolades as Pleasanton Weekly newspaper’s “Readers’ Choice” she was able to connect with many local people and businesses. As her family and business grew, she made an effort to give back to the community by volunteering her skills as photographer to numerous non-profit organizations including CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Sandra J Wing Foundation, First Tee, Tri-Valley Turkey Burn, Chamber of Commerce, AXIS Community Health, Ed Kinney Foundation, and Make a Difference for Pleasanton. Christina has also volunteered for six years as a Reflections Program judge in the photography category.
In 2015 she published her cookbook, Be Free Cooking - The Allergen Aware Cook, to create allergen-conscious recipes for any occasion. This was a wonderful new way to engage with the community and especially with the school her children went to, Mohr Elementary. She has visited Mohr every year since its publication to talk about food, writing and to inspire the students to write their own stories. Over the last two years she taught a writing and food workshop she developed for the second graders, taking them on fun-filled and educational interactive culinary journey. In April she launched the Rising Star program, aimed at inspiring young students to write and “publish” their own books into this special section of the school library. In addition, she also coordinated Author Day where six authors presented to the second graders with messages focused on inspiring students to keep writing and overcoming obstacles.
When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017 she looked for ways to help the people of Texas. She worked with the local chapter of Kids Against Hunger and its director, Sherry Leal, the Juanita Haugen 2018 award winner, to organize a meal packing event. Together they secured 240 volunteers who packed 60,000 meals for the victims. She continues to donate her time to this wonderful and worthwhile organization.
Christina is also a Harvest Park 6th grade volleyball coach, Phantom League U13 softball coach and a member of the Pleasanton Unified Public Safety Committee.
Jee-Yeon and Wallace Wong are incredible friends to many in Pleasanton. They have lived in Pleasanton for the past 15 years. They are generous in their service, great examples to their children, Kaitlyn (15), Zachary (12), Ryan (10) and the friends of their children. They quietly and selfless make our community a better place every day. Their example is inspiring.
The Wongs have been involved in many organizations as volunteers. They have encouraged their kids to help raise money to help homeless people. They have participated in service projects without any expectation of recognition; in fact, recognition would be uncomfortable for this couple and their children.
Wallace is an ethical business person in our community. He is a Farmers Insurance Agent in downtown Pleasanton with an office in the historic Pleasanton Hotel. He has served in Rotary, YMCA and other organizations. His high ethical standards aren’t righteous or judgmental, they are merely evidence of what he expects of himself, his family and his community. He is a living example of good character.
Jee-Yeon is a wonderful mother and friend to all who come into contact with her. She opens her home to newcomers in the community, inviting them to join her in cooking and sharing a meal. Her two sons and daughter are as amazing as their parents.
Wallace and Jee-Yeon are outstanding in the way they live the character values every single day. They are kind and courteous. They are compassionate and caring, and they live responsible, respectful lives and inspire others to do the same.
Andrew Holmes is a 14 year old Pleasanton resident and 8th grader at Harvest Park, although battling a rare disease is inspired by his own experience and has found ways to give back to his community.
At age 8, Andrew got a really bad headache and fell semi-unconscious. He was taken to the ER to find that he had a massive brain bleed. They rushed him to Children's Hospital where he had brain surgery to stop the bleeding. Later they discovered that the bleeding was a rupture of a brain arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. An AVM is a rare, congenital artery malformation. Due to the location in his brain, Andrew’s AVM is life threatening and inoperable. The only treatment available was gamma knife radiosurgery, where targeted radiation is used in hopes of obliterating the AVM. Radiation works slowly and Andrew hopes to one day to be AVM free.
Unfortunately, there are side effects with radiation as well. The treatments caused Andrew brain swelling and hemiplegia, or extreme weakness on his right side. This caused Andrew to be unable to walk or use his right hand or arm. Andrew started fourth grade in a wheelchair and unable to attend regular school. With ongoing therapy, Andrew has been able to walk again using a leg brace and get some right arm movement back.
Andrew lives for baseball and is very happy to be able to play, although not without challenges. Due to only having full use of one hand, he catches and throws with the same hand, just like the former MLB player Jim Abbott. His favorite place to be is watching his Oakland A’s play.
Despite their ongoing journey, Andrew is committed to raising awareness about AVMs and rare diseases. Andrew wrote a letter to County Supervisor Nate Miley to have Rare Disease Day commemorated in Alameda County, has testified before the California State Legislature, and has participated in rare disease awareness efforts in the U.S. Congress.
“My life is challenging, but my mom always told me when I start to feel sorry for myself, do something for others,” said Andrew Holmes. “Kids shouldn’t have to have brain surgery or rare conditions.”
Andrew has had to spend a lot of time at Children’s Hospital and appreciated the Child Life Department bringing him toys and games every day. He also enjoyed their Bingo Nights with the great prizes. So, in 2016 Andrew started an annual holiday toy drive. He has also held two spring toy drives in partnership with Pleasanton Little League. Through the generosity of Andrew’s friends and family, Andrew has been able to collect over 1,000 toys for Children’s Hospital.
In 2016, Andrew was awarded the first ever Youth Action Award by the Alameda County Office of Education for his advocacy on behalf of children and families whose lives are impacted by rare diseases.
Museum on Main
The Museum on Main’s mission is to enrich community life through education and preservation. They link the past to the future and encourage participation in the arts and humanities through local public programs. The museum started out in the historic house located in the middle of the Alameda County Fairgrounds and moved into the old town hall building on Main Street in 1985. Through the years, they have grown to be a very viable and involved organization right in the heart of downtown Pleasanton. They are committed to all members of our community.
The museum features permanent and temporary exhibits, guest lecturers, tours for schools and other community groups and other educational public programs. They collect and care for historic documents, photographs and artifacts that help tell the stories of Pleasanton and its surrounding areas. They are a wonderful cultural resource available in a central location in downtown, welcoming newcomers, longtime residents and visitors.
Running the museum involves many volunteers who assist with greeting the public, helping in the office, facilitating public programs, serving as docents and guides for the popular annual Ghost Walk tours, and helping manage the archives and collections. A trip to the museum is an enjoyable and informative way to see how Pleasanton’s past has shaped what it is today. A trip to the museum is an enjoyable and informative way to see how Pleasanton’s past has shaped what it is today.
The Juanita Haugen community organization award is presented in tribute to the many volunteers who make a difference in our community as it is to the dedicated museum staff and board.