Jim Fraser shaves his head once a year to help kids with life-threatening cancer. Scott Lasch spends money from his own pocket to comfort victims of mass shootings and other tragedies.
And they do all of this extraordinary volunteer work in addition to their day jobs, Fraser as an engineer with the Long Beach Fire Department and Lasch as a homicide detective with the Long Beach Police Department.
Fraser and Lasch are humble men who don’t do their volunteer work for applause or recognition, but they deserve it. And they will get it when they are honored with the first “Heart of a Hero” awards to be given out by the Long Beach Kiwanis Club at a gala 100th Anniversary Dinner Sept. 19 at the Museum of Latin American Art.
“They are real heroes who have made a difference in many lives,” said Pat Paris Appleby, the 99th president of the local Kiwanis Club.
To honor their 100 years in Long Beach, Kiwanians are partnering with the Long Beach Police and Fire Departments and raising funds for two projects that serve children and the city:
Kids and Cops. This program brings youth and police together for a day of games, food and fun. The goal is to build trust in law enforcement through personal interaction with kids.
Fire Safety House mobile unit. This is a new project to purchase a mobile unit that will travel to Long Beach schools throughout the year as an interactive educational tool to teach children fire safety.
“I can think of no better way to celebrate our 100-year anniversary than with these projects and the ‘Heart of a Hero’ awards,” Appleby said.
The Long Beach Kiwanis Club has come a long way since it was started in 1919 by 16 local businessmen who met at the Lord & Taylor Confectionery Parlor to discuss forming a local chapter of the newly created Kiwanis organization, which was started in Detroit in 1915. The name is derived from the Ochipea Indian phrase, “Nun-Kee-Wan-Nis,” which meant, “We find pleasure in sharing our talents.”
The Kiwanis movement spread to California with the Los Angeles Kiwanis Club being the first in the state on July 23, 1919, followed closely by the Long Beach club, the second in the state, on Sept. 16, 1919.
In 1987, women officially were allowed to become members. Kiwanis International now has more than 600,000 members in more than 16,000 clubs. The Long Beach chapter is one of 10 local area clubs in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of Kiwanis International.
Over the years, the Press-Telegram has had strong connections to the Kiwanis Club. In 1962, the Kiwanis president was Malcolm Epley, who wrote a popular column, “Beach Combing,” for the newspaper from 1949-1971. Epley also was the Press-Telegram’s executive editor and helped create the Long Beach Historical Society with other Kiwanians.
Tom Hennessy, the PT columnist who died in 2016, also wrote about the Kiwanis Club and its support of the newspaper’s Send-a-Kid-to-Camp Fund.
Other highlights of the Kiwanis Club’s 100 years in Long Beach include:
1921: President Walter Barbe of the Long Beach chapter writes the song, “Hail Kiwanis.” The song is so popular it is adopted by Kiwanis International and is now used as the theme song for all clubs.
1945: Club holds meeting to honor the last two remaining Civil War veterans from Long Beach.
1946: Four Kiwanians start harmonizing and become an outstanding quartet who appeared at many events. Members were Brewster Gray, father of banker and community leader Jim Gray; Norm Masterson, Jack Hammond and Harry Christensen. The group makes an album with proceeds going to at-risk youths.
1959: Kiwanians pledge money toward building of the Boy Scout’s Camp Tahquitz Lodge in the San Bernardino Mountains. It is named the Kiwanis Lodge. The Kiwanis Club has had strong ties to the Boy Scouts since 1920, when they helped establish the Scouts in Long Beach.
1975: Club sells hot dogs and beer at the first Long Beach Grand Prix to support its charitable work.
1984-1986: Club holds “Bug Party” fundraisers for the Children’s Club helped children with medical treatment. Fundraising activities are renamed, “Karing for Kids.”
1987: Women eligible to become Kiwanis members.
1996: Member David Reed involves Kiwanis in building a home on Lime Street in Long Beach for Habitat for Humanity.
1997-2010: Annual golf tournaments raise funds for Ronald McDonald House, the Assistance League’s “Kids on the Block” and other charities.
2016: Kiwanis provides grant to support reading at at a YMCA preschool.
2017: Kiwanis builds playground for Young Horizons preschool.
2019: Kiwanis celebrates 100th anniversary with “Heart of a Hero” gala honoring Long Beach Firefighter Jim Fraser and Det. Scott Lasch and raising funds for Kids and Cops and mobile fire safety van.
Pat Paris Appleby has been a Kiwanian for 24 years and is serving her second term as president. She moved to Long Beach from San Diego to become a partner in Compass Productions, a children’s book packaging business. She is a retired illustrator and graphic artist and has illustrated books for clients like LucasFilm, SeaWorld, Hallmark and Sesame Street.
Since she did a lot of work for children, she joined Kiwanis to support the community and help kids. She has helped produce the Kids and Cops event and credits Don Budai with chairing the 100th anniversary gala and putting together the partnership with the Fire Department.
“I am very proud of our partnership with the Police and Fire Departments and saluting the men we will be honoring for their exceptional volunteer work,” she said.
Engineer Jim Fraser has been with the Long Beach Fire Department for 19 years, including his current position inspecting high-rise buildings with the Fire Prevention Bureau.
Fraser and some other firefighters started shaving their heads a few years ago to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the nation’s largest private group that funds childhood cancer research.
He said he was inspired at one point by a request on social media from a woman who asked people to pray for her young cousin, Austin Molina. Fraser recognized the woman as someone he had gone to kindergarten with years ago.
Fraser got more involved. He talks of an emotional moment that occurred in 2015 at Millikan High School where he was speaking to raise money for Austin’s treatment.
“A young man stepped forward from the audience; it was Austin,” Fraser said. "He came on stage and proceeded to shave my head. It was so emotional.”
Fraser developed a relationship with Austin, showing him around the fire station and taking him on a ride on a fire engine. Austin died a short time later, and his mother asked Fraser to deliver a eulogy at Austin’s memorial service.
“It was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life,” Fraser said. “I get a lot of satisfaction in raising money for these children, but it can be tough on you emotionally.”
Fraser holds the rank of Squire of Hope for his fundraising efforts. He said his goal is to get the entire city of Long Beach involved somehow in raising money to help fight childhood cancer. “Wouldn’t it be great if the city of Long Beach was known as the city that helps children fight cancer?” he said.
Scott Lasch has been with the Long Beach Police Department for 25 years, with the past 17 years as a homicide detective.
When he isn’t solving major crimes, Lasch volunteers as a department chaplain and has spent countless hours in service outside his job. Last year he received the department’s Police Excellence award for his personal sacrifices to help others start the healing process through their personal loss.
Lasch has provided support at tragedies in the United States, such as active shooting incidents, natural disasters and any occurrence requiring grief counseling for victims and their families.
He was there in the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, sacrificing his personal time and using his own money to help get victims what they needed. Lasch is a member of the Billy Graham Rapid Response team which helps victims of tragedies throughout the United States.
‘What I do is very rewarding and I am honored by this award, but it should go to all of the chaplains in the department,” he said. “They all do great work, and I will be accepting the award for them.”
The Kiwanis Club could not have chosen two more deserving recipients of its first “Heart of a Hero” awards than Jim Fraser and Scott Lasch.
If you want to see two extraordinary heroes in person, plan on attending the Kiwanis Club dinner Sept. 19. It will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at theMuseum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave.
Individual tickets are $125. Program sponsorships and table sponsors are available at the Kiwanis Club website: kiwanislongbeach.org. Deadline is Sept. 8. Donations to fund Kiwanis Kids and Cops and the Fire Safety House Mobile Unit can be made the same way.