|Splish! Splash! R.I.S.E. Kids Descend on Casa El Tigre for Afternoon of Fun with Seth Cloutman|
Roberta Rand - PVNN
March 20, 2010
With its broad terraces and spectacular view of Banderas Bay, Casa El Tigre is most notable for hosting elegant dinner parties thrown by Chefs Seth Cloutman and Cristhian Rios. But Monday afternoon, the tinkling of fine crystal was exchanged for delighted squeals as the kids of Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza (RISE) got the run of the house and the casa's private garden and pool for an afternoon. Volunteers kept a close eye as the kids frolicked in the shallow pool surrounded by palm trees, tropical landscaping and cascading bourgainvilla.
Seth Cloutman is grinning from ear-to-ear as a dozen or so delighted five and six-year-olds splash in the water, while others hover at the pool's edge, working up the nerve for remedial swim lessons from staff and volunteers like Diane Fahselt, Benito Mendoza and others.
"I would have these kids here all the time if I could," says Seth. The affection he feels for the children of RISE is almost palpable as he sits on the edge of the pool, with kids latched onto every available appendage of his lanky, 6' 4" frame. He hunches forward to create a protective cocoon around one little girl. She folds her whole body into the space nearest his heart, while Seth's long fingers splay out over her back like E.T.'s, transmitting mega-rays of love through touch, and - Seth hopes - erasing at least some of the woundedness she has experienced in her short life. The girl gazes upward, pointing to a gap in her smile where a baby tooth used to be. Trust has clearly been established.
Seth was first introduced to RISE two years ago after being asked to donate to a RISE fundraiser. RISE kids are babies and children under the age of 15, who've been abused, abandoned or removed from their homes due to violence or neglect. The organization depends solely on donations and volunteers to meet its financial needs.
A year ago, Seth met his partner Cristhian Rios, whose parents founded RISE in 2001. Now they work together to raise support and awareness of RISE and its work in Puerto Vallarta.
"We know we will never be able to make up for the fact that these kids' parents are not with them," says Cristhian. "But we can show them that they are not invisible. That someone cares."
For Seth, it's more personal. "As a kid, I was beaten and abused. I left home at 15. Fortunately, there were people waiting in the wings to take me in - people who believed in me and wanted me to succeed in life," says Seth. "I have been blessed. Now I want to pay it forward with the kids of RISE. It feels so great to help."
If you would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer with RISE, hosting a fundraising event, or supporting RISE with your donation, contact seth(at)foodbyseth.com, or cristhian(at)foodbyseth.com.
Prior to relocating to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from Colorado Springs with her dog, Bo, Roberta Rand worked as a magazine editor, web editor and marketing copywriter. She is also an essayist and author, whose book "Playing the Tuba at Midnight" explored the quirks of living single.