Crossing the Finish Line

Jason just before he crossed the finish line.

When Jason Valderrama stumbled onto Cloud & Fire, he could never have predicted how much it would change his life. For the first time in a long time, he found people who believed in him. All of Cloud & Fire held him accountable to his goal of completing high school but also encouraged him with grace and love when he felt like giving up and walking away.

On April 22, Jason ran the 10K with many other students and friends of Cloud & Fire at our Race it Forward charity run. He would tell us later that this was his first time doing any sort of major exercise since tearing a ligament in his leg many years ago, an injury that kept him from playing the sports that he loved and keeping up with the other areas of his personal life. In fact, this marked the beginning of a dark time for Jason.

Students gather for a quick pep talk before the race.

After leaving school to focus on issues at home, he watched as the things he had once been passionate about disappeared into a monotonous lifestyle defined by work, home, and socializing. With his arrival at Cloud & Fire YouthBuild and the change it was bringing to his life, Jason considered getting back to his athletics, something that had brought him so much joy in the past. However, his passion was overshadowed by doubt in his leg’s ability to run like before. But when he crossed that 10K finish line, Jason exceeded his own expectations and proved to himself that he was indeed ready to run again. Completing the race was symbolic to him, a picture of the pride and accomplishment he will feel as he crosses the stage as one of our 2017 graduates.

It’s only fitting that our charity run would inspire students like Jason, who has also been transformed by his time at Cloud & Fire in several other areas of his life. In everything we do, our organization cannot help but inspire and motivate students to pursue the change they desire to see in their own lives.



Worldwide Pay it Forward Day is Friday, April 28, 2017

“Pay it forward” is an expression that means we repay good deeds done to us by passing good deeds on to someone else other than the person who did good to us. The idea has caught on so well that Friday, April 28 is Worldwide Pay it Forward Day.  

One of the highest ways of “paying it forward” comes through charity work, when good deeds are done anonymously or without ever meeting recipients. The nonprofit sector is rooted in our built-in need to “give back” when we have been blessed in some way. Volunteerism, monetary gifts, or actually working for a charity are just a few ways we can participate in what has also become known as “random acts of kindness.”

Runners “pay it forward” by crossing the finish line at our 2015 Race it Forward 5K/10K

On April 22, 2017, Cloud & Fire, a charity devoted to helping Valley at-risk youth, will sponsor Race it Forward, a 5K/10K charity run at the Hansen Dam Recreation Center. The event is a great way to combine fitness with doing good for others, as all proceeds will help foster youth, homeless youth, and teen parents who are in need of finishing high school.  

Cloud & Fire is the premiere high school completion program for Valley out-of-school youth. Because some schools in low-income areas such as areas in North Hills, Van Nuys, and Panorama City have dropout rates as high as 76%, there may be as many as 10,000 youth in the Valley in need of high school completion programs. Unlike packet programs, such as Mission View or Opportunities for Learning, Cloud & Fire provides a full high school curriculum, including electives, leadership training, project-based learning, and college and career readiness. Youth up to age 25 may enroll.

To register for Race it Forward or to learn more about Cloud & Fire, visit  To learn about International Pay it Forward Day, visit


Those of us who lived through the Los Angeles riots will never forget watching our city erupt into flames after the acquittal of the four L.A.P.D. officers who beat Rodney King. Many neighborhoods were burned and looted, but the destruction done by flames of racial hatred was even more devastating than the massive structural damage to more than 1,000 affected buildings. The loss of $1 billion was incidental compared to the horrific eruption of rage and the erosion of trust that occurred in just a few days’ time. We wondered if L.A. could ever return from these catastrophic blows. A residue of suspicion blanketed the city like a heavy, blinding fog.

My commute out of the city that April night was on an eerily deserted freeway, with mine the lone car traveling outward to the Inland Empire. I was deeply relieved to finally arrive safely at home, and take shelter far away from the round-the-clock strife in the heart of the city.  Back in those days, the intersection of Florence and Normandie, where Reginald Denny was dragged from his big rig and nearly beaten to death, or Lakeview Terrace, the site of the Rodney King arrest and beating, were only distant places to me. I couldn’t pinpoint them on a map, and surely could not have anticipated that only one year later, I would become a resident of Los Angeles, and eventually work in an inner city community not much different from the places that were highlighted in the riots.

April 29, 2017 marks twenty-five years since the L.A. riots occurred. Much has happened to rebuild our city, erase scars, and perhaps even pacify the racial tensions of the past. Nevertheless, we would do well to pause and remember, and to ask ourselves what can yet be done to quiet the troubled waters that might still flow underneath the surface of our city. With Black Lives Matter ringing in our ears, surely we cannot lull ourselves into believing that all has been solved with the passage of time.

Although I have been a resident of the San Fernando Valley for twenty-four years now, only recently did I learn that the Rodney King beating took place at the corner of Foothill Blvd. and Osborne Street, near the entrance of the lovely Hansen Dam Recreation Center. This discovery came while simultaneously doing historical research on the Valley and planning a charity run called Race it Forward to take place in Hansen Dam on April 22. The race will raise funds to help troubled youth who have dropped out of school, been in the foster care system, have become teen parents, are homeless, or who deal with substance abuse. The event, which takes place just steps away from where King was beaten, seems a fitting way to commemorate the events of 1992, as it is a way to invest in lives and perhaps prevent similar situations in the future.  

By all accounts, Rodney King led a life that was chaotic and ruinous. While this by no means justified the beating he endured, it does raise the question whether his life—and the history of Los Angeles—might have turned out differently had there been effective interventions in his life. Cloud & Fire, the sponsor of Race it Forward, is a faith-based organization that is dedicated to providing holistic interventions in the troubled young lives of those who are typically at-risk, low-income, minority youth. Investing in the lives of at-risk youth is perhaps the most appropriate way we can remember the events in Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, and ensure that nothing of that magnitude ever takes place here again.


Race it Forward will provide scholarships for youth to go to camp, finish high school, and put their lives back together, regardless of their past. To register or for more information, visit


Family Fun Day at Hansen Dam

IMG_0551eThis April, plan a fun-filled family day at the Hansen Dam Recreation Center in Lakeview Terrace. Begin the day with Cloud & Fire’s Race it Forward, a charity 5K/10K run/walk that the whole family can enjoy together. The race benefits foster and homeless youth, teen parents, and youth in recovery who are returning to school after dropping out. It is a great way to teach children about helping others. Race it Forward begins at 8:30am. Kids 6 and under are free.

After the race, enjoy a picnic in the park, visit the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center (only $1 for kids), or take in the interactive Discovery Cube ($12.95 for kids).  On any given day, Hansen Dam is one of the best family entertainment bargains in the Valley, but Race it Forward is a great way for the entire family to exercise together for a worthy cause. Children as young as seven years old will run to help the Valley’s older youth get back in school.  Strollers are welcome, so children of all ages can take part.

Many San Fernando Valley schools have dropout rates as high as 75%, and Cloud & Fire is committed to helping older youth finish school and enter college or careers. For more information, visit 

Race it Forward

RiF Header with Website

Looking for a charity 5K or 10K race near Los Angeles?  Cloud & Fire’s Race it Forward will be held in the San Fernando Valley on April 22, 2017 at Hansen Dam Recreation Center to benefit “second-chance education” for at-risk youth. The race will benefit foster and homeless youth, teen parents, and youth in recovery who are now ready to move forward in life. Join us at beautiful Hansen Dam to help young people in our communities thrive. Visit for more information.

Race it Forward 2015 Recap

Two 10k runners dancing across the finish line.

Race it Forward has come and gone and we just wanted to say…THANK YOU!

Thank you for everything you did to make this a fun and successful event! It was inspiring to watch our students cross the finish line with smiles on their faces and a sense of accomplishment in their hearts. We raised almost $3,000 for student counseling and intervention services and we could not have done it without your support and dedication to our mission. Some Highlights from the day…

Cloud & Fire student Julio races toward the finish line, placing 2nd in the 10K race.

Thanks to many of you who participated in “Sponsor a Student Runner”  campaign, many of our students were able to run in the race. One of our students, Julio I. Trigueros, signed up for the 10K race and ran it with pride. He placed 2nd without any formal training and impressed the most athletic of participants with his perseverance and sportsmanship.

A long time Friday Night Church member, Gildi, and her family ran the 5K and added one of the sweetest moments of the day. Bryant, Gildi’s oldest at 7, ran the 5K with his mom, dad, younger brother and sister, who were being pushed in the stroller. At the finish line, Bryant expressed his frustration with coming in after his mom and younger siblings. He said, “I was so tired, I wanted to quit, but then I remember this was for the Cloud & Fire kids. I wanted to help them, so I kept going!”

After a struggle, Bryant hears the cheers and finishes strong!

Friends and family from Reality LA, Refuge LA, and CSUN InterVarsity Matador Christian Fellowship came out to run for our cause! We are so grateful to Children’s Hunger Fund for donating water bottles and to all our friends and supporters who made this event the success that it was.

Check out more photos from  Race it Forward on our Facebook page!

Why Mr. Carlos is “Racing it Forward”


(In the above picture Mr. Carlos is on the far right and Mr. Ren is standing right next to him)

Race it Forward season is in full swing here at Cloud & Fire Ministries! As we prepare for a great event full of community service, fellowship, and fitness education, we want to highlight why one of our own will be running this year. Carlos Gomez, Cloud & Fire YouthBuild P.E. and math teacher extraordinaire, agreed to sit down and talk with us about his goals for race day!

How did you hear about Cloud & Fire Ministries? Why you were drawn to be a part of the cause?

I first heard of CFM through a Craigslist posting my pastor gave to me. He gave me the posting because I was a teacher in Simi Valley but a youth pastor in North Hills and he knew that I had a desire to somehow blend both. CFM was not only the perfect blend of my two passions, ministry and education, but was also in my ideal location. I was drawn to the heart of the ministry. Equipping young adults in my community was a blessing and a mission I could definitely get behind.

Why did you get involved with “Race it Forward”?

Race It Forward is a win-win! People who get involved are doing something that’s good for themselves and others! Running makes you feel good, especially if you have your own personal health goals. Race It Forward will give you an opportunity to display your progress, improve, and be filled with a sense of accomplishment! Plus, what could be nicer than a beautiful day out by the beach? We are helping our organization continue to do what it does best, changing the lives of youth in our community.

How do you think this race will benefit Cloud & Fire students? (Whether they run in it themselves or just through raising money for counseling services).

Students are going to benefit from participating because I think that we as a program really touch on the importance of self-care via exercise. I also don’t think many of our students have experienced an organized run before and it feels great to be part of something bigger than yourself. You start, you push yourself, and in the end are awarded for your efforts. It will be a day they will remember for a very long time.

How long have you been training?

I have not specifically been training for this race, but I have stayed active! I started CrossFit in January and do that 4-5 times a week. It’s intense. Many of the CrossFit workouts revolve around running, so in a way I guess you can say I am training. I’m also the team sports class teacher and I occasionally train with the students.

I already have the upper hand. You see, I’m committed to beating 2014 Silver medalist, Mr. Ren (Mr. Ren is the Government, Economics, and Leadership teacher at Cloud & Fire and is good friends with Mr. Carlos.) I heard a rumor that he might not even run! I challenge him to the 10K, if he chooses to do the 5K, it’s because he wants to stay away from me!

What is your motivation to run this race? Why should other people sign up?

My motivation to run this race is really to get out there with members of CFM, staff, students, volunteers, and other supporters and just enjoy a day of exercise for a good cause! It’s going to be a great day and I don’t want to miss out! Also Mr. Ren, I need to beat Mr. Ren.

Do you have a favorite run? If so, when and where was it and why is it your favorite to date?

Race It Forward 2014! It was also in Santa Monica. It was nice to take in the ocean, beautiful mountains on the horizon, the Pier, the gorgeous homes. The Venice to Santa Monica running path is definitely my favorite!

Three words that describe your running. *Efficient. *Contemplative. *Therapeutic.

Do you have any pre-race superstitions/rituals?

Yeah! My shoe-laces can’t be too loose or too tight. I find myself tying my shoes multiple times before a race. I need to get them just right!

What type of music pumps you up before a run/race?

Anything from Andy Mineo.

Do you have a favorite running motto?

You’ll hate me at the start, but love me at the end.

When is your next race?

After Race It Forward 2015 my next race will probably be…Race it Forward 2016! Race it Forward takes place on Saturday, May 2nd, in Crescent Bay Park, Santa Monica at 8am sharp! For more details on how to register, visit