Claremont’s youth stand front-and-center with council

Claremont is known for its high level of civic engagement, and the city’s youngest residents are no exception. Whether it is saving a life or saving a landmark, Claremont kids are ready to spring into action.
Never has that been more evident than at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
The evening began with recognition of two heroic children who saved the life of their father and ended with the impassioned pleas of local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts trying to save La Casita, a structure that faces for an uncertain future.
City staff, council members and first responders gathered before a standing-room-only crowd as Mayor Joe Lyons presented 6-year-old Moralia Herrejon-Rutte and her 2-year-old brother Gael with a certificate for their quick-thinking actions that saved the life of their father this past summer.
On July 27, the two children were swimming with their dad, Juan Herrejon, when he suddenly became quiet and “fell asleep” after entering the family pool. Moralia swam down to make sure he was not just holding his breath or playing before calling for her mother, Cristina Herrejon-Rutte, who was inside the house. Moments later, Gael came running into the house and informed his mom, “Daddy was floating at the bottom of the pool!”
Ms. Herrejon-Rutte ran out, dove in and pulled 36-year-old Juan to the shallow end and onto the stairs. Seeing he was unresponsive and not breathing, she began chest compressions but was unable to lift him completely out of the pool. Moralia ran into the house to get the phone to call 911, while Gael remained calm in a nearby chair.
“The first responders got there within five minutes,” Ms. Herrejon-Rutte said. “They tried to intubate him but he had a locked jaw. Then they took him to Pomona Valley Hospital.”
Mr. Herrejon’s condition was life threatening for several days. He remained unconscious with fluid in his lungs and swelling in his brain. Thankfully, Mr. Herrejon has since made a full recovery. Doctors attributed his survival to his good physical condition and the quick response of the children and first responders.
“I’m very proud and very surprised by the children’s actions,” Mr. Herrejon told the COURIER. “They acted very maturely. I gave them life but they gave it back to me.”
Diagnosed with Long QT syndrome (LQTS), a heart rhythm disorder that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats, Mr. Herrejon has now been outfitted with a pacemaker and the family continues to count its blessings.
Moralia and Gael have both been involved with the city’s swim program and their parents credit the pool staff for teaching their children pool safety.
 “We went as a family before the program ended to thank the pool staff for safety training. Without it, my husband may not be here today,”?Ms. Herrejon-Rutte said. “We’re blessed the children acted quickly and thoughtfully as trained.”
Following the ceremony and the city manager’s report, Mayor Lyons opened the meeting to public comment on matters not on the agenda. In a room filled with roughly 14 Girl Scout troops, two Boy Scout troops and their leaders, Yvonne Murphy was first to take the floor.
“We are in here on behalf of past, present and future Girl Scouts of Claremont, asking for your help in preserving a true Claremont asset, and that is La Casita,” the Girl Scout leader told council members. “Recently, the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles has placed La Casita on a list of properties to be disposed of, sold off. We need your help in keeping this precious and important part of Claremont history, to secure a place in its future. We are asking you to partner with us and convince the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Council to keep this property.”
As the COURIER reported last week, the fate of La Casita remains undecided as the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles considers retiring the property from its repertoire pending a ratification vote next month. The adobe structure, established by the first Girl Scout leader in Claremont, has been an integral part of the local scouting community for nearly 70 years, which stands united in its mission to save La Casita.
“If I can ask as a show of support, for those in the audience that are here for the preservation of La Casita to remain a Girl Scout property to please stand and join me in saying the Girl Scout Promise,” Ms. Murphy requested at the council meeting.
The majority of the room stood and recited the pledge in unison. “On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.”
When finished, the room filled with applause and the scouts took their seats.
“As you can see, we are very passionate about this,” said Ms. Murphy. “There are other Girl Scouts and Claremont residents who would like to share their reasons why La Casita should remain a Girl Scout property with access to all.”
Over a dozen impassioned Girl Scouts, and a few Boy Scouts, stepped forward to the podium to share their La Casita experiences, while roughly 40 others cheered them on. One sentiment rang true for all: La Casita is a special place, and it should be preserved for generations to come.
“When I was in Cub Scouts, every year we’d have our family campout at La Casita and utilize the kitchen and convert the parking lot to a campground,” says Jake, now a Boy Scout and high school senior. “It’s where our troop decided to hold our ceremony for our bridge into Boy Scouts. I know that I, and my fellow Boy Scouts who were there to experience all of that, will be very disappointed to have that resource sold or renovated or torn down to be something else. I would really like to see it preserved for Scouts.”
Noting the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles’ impending ratification vote deadline of October 25, City Manager Tony Ramos agreed to review the matter and add it to the next council meeting agenda in October.  
Regardless of the outcome, everyone walked away feeling like something had been accomplished.
“To see a packed room with all those young people engaged in the government process reminds me why I got into public service,” says Bevin Handel, Claremont’s public information officer. “From the great story of our two young lifesavers surrounded by the firefighters who helped them to the little ones asking council to preserve their special place—what a great example of why Claremont is a special community.”
—Angela Bailey


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