Don Knabe championed the Safe Surrender Law to keep babies from being abandoned when he was a Los Angeles County supervisor; now he's helping two of the saved infants go to college.
Knabe lobbied the state legislature in 2001 to pass the law, which allows women to give up their newborn infants without penalty if they are turned in at a fire station, hospital or police station. Knabe then strengthened components of implementing the law before beginning the program in Los Angeles County.
Last week, two of the first babies to be rescued — Megan Moffat and Emily Jensen — each received a $5,000 scholarship to start their college careers.
"To realize that these young ladies were inches away from being thrown away," Knabe said last week. "Now they are fine young women moving forward in life, making a contribution to the community… It gets pretty emotional."
To date, about 180 babies have been rescued in Los Angeles County through the Safe Surrender program. The oldest are graduating from high school now.
"I'm proud of where I came from," Moffat, who is 18, said. "It's special being a Safe Surrender baby, and I'm grateful to be one of the first to be impacted by this law. This scholarship will allow me to attend my dream university and explore all the opportunities that it has to offer."
Moffat graduated from Mayfield Senior High School in Pasadena. She will be attending Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., as a Health Science major on the pre-med track. Northeastern is a well-known research university where experiential learning and global engagement are emphasized, Moffat said.
Moffat's family is helping with costs, she said, but the scholarship made all the difference in being able to go to Boston.
Jensen could not be reached for comment before deadline.
"This is a dream come true for me," Knabe said. "When you realize what they are doing today … and it's all because of a brave mother willing to surrender them.
“The first two scholarship recipients have already demonstrated in their short lives the courage their mothers showed in protecting them from abandonment," he added in a separate statement. "They have been driven by an insurmountable perseverance to succeed and have both committed to dedicating their lives and talents to helping other people.”
Knabe came up with the idea of a scholarship fund in 2015 as he was preparing to retire from the LA County Board of Supervisors. He worked with the Long Beach Community Foundation, which administers the fund, to allow county employees to donate through their paychecks. The fund got off to a good start when Knabe suggested donations there instead of retirement gifts.
“Facilitating Don’s vision and watching it become a reality has been a highlight of my time so far at the Community Foundation,” LBCF President & CEO Marcelle Epley said in a release. "His consistent support of these youth, and encouragement for continual contributions, created waves that will positively steer their lives now and well into the future.”
Knabe said he is not involved in choosing the scholarship winners, with a committee from the Community Foundation handling that job. All children safely surrendered in LA County are eligible. Applications must be made within three years of the child turning 17.
To find out more, or to donate to the fund, go to www.longbeachcf.org.