Kids Gran Fondo raises money for children with life-threatening illnesses




August 19, 2019, 9:01AM

It’s a rare day when 2-year-old Vaughn Perez gets to go to the park.

Even the simplest venture outside his Santa Rosa home involves vigilance, and lots of hand sanitizer, on the part of his parents Amanda and Velmer Perez. They must stand guard against even the simplest gesture like a high-five, which can put the gregarious boy at risk of catching a virus that his immune system, and the donated heart in his body, may not be able to withstand.

Sunday, they made an exception.

Vaughn and his twin brother, Vicente, bounced, danced and waved at families crossing the finish line at the seventh annual Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo bicycle ride at Lucchesi Park in Petaluma. About 200 bike and scooter riders and their jogging parents took part in the charitable event, which raises money for children with serious illnesses.

Vaughn Perez and Petaluma’s Callie Jacobs, 9, were this year’s honorees.

“We try to protect him as much as possible,” said Vaughn’s mother, Amanda Perez. “It takes a village.”

The Kids Gran Fondo grew out of former professional cyclist and Petaluma High graduate Steven Cozza’s work raising money for children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. This year, the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club took the helm of the event. Organizers select children each year to be their “heroes” and their families recipients of event proceeds.

Club member Chase Kranich estimates they will have raised between $8,000 and $10,000 to split between the families. Participants chose 1-mile, 4-mile and 7-mile routes.

“What I like is that it’s kids supporting kids,” Kranich said.

The ride is becoming a tradition for some families, including the Sniders of Petaluma.

This year, the training wheels were off Veronica Snider’s bike because the 6-year-old has since learned how to balance and pedal. She rode while her brother Duke, 4, scooted along on a balance bike. Their mother, Nicole Snider, jogged along for the 1-mile route.

It’s a chance to get the kids involved in a good cause and get some exercise while at it, Snider  said.

“How was it? What was the best part?” Snider asked her son after they reached the finish line and headed to the playground.

“Riding!” Duke said.

At a circle of booths with games, Callie Jacobs played an oversized checkers board with a volunteer.

At just 4 months old, Callie was diagnosed with hereditary pancreatitis and an undetermined genetic disorder, her mother Kari Jacobs said. Callie has been in and out of the hospital for most of her life, and they’ve had to learn to infuse their lives with joy despite the burden of hospital stays and uncertainty about her diagnosis.

Like the Perez family, the Jacobses have transformed their lives to care for their children and advocate for their care as they face formidable health challenges.

“It’s such a blessing,” Kari Jacobs said of the support. “The hardest part for us is it’s not going to end. But we have a great core group of friends and a strong family.”

War Wagon BBQ is Petaluma’s newest food truck



June 20, 2019

Due to the overwhelming support of its Father’s Day barbecue fundraiser, War Wagon BBQ donated $600 to the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club’s Children’s Charity Mission this past weekend.

War Wagon BBQ first came to Petaluma’s attention when Tim McDowell posted a Mother’s Day announcement for his friend Rick Foote, the owner of War Wagon BBQ. With a phone number out of Southern California, an address that matched Maselli & Son’s and a post made for a “friend,” people were at first a bit suspicious of this new business.

But fear not, War Wagon BBQ is both licensed and insured. As far as the address, Rick’s daughter Vanessa Maselli said that her father-in-law, Jim Maselli, was graciously allowing War Wagon BBQ to set up in the north parking lot at Maselli & Sons on occasion.

When it comes to the name, there’s a story to tell. As the barbecue trailer was under construction here in Petaluma by Oliver Shirley, it started to look a lot like the war wagon depicted in the 1967 John Wayne movie of the same name. It really is a thing of beauty, with both wood and propane storage up front, smokers down one side and grills down the other, with a butcher block and prep area at the rear.

The recent Father’s Day fundraiser was extra special because it came out of a tragedy that befell the War Wagon family. They were set to compete in the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club’s Ribs for Kids fundraiser on June 8 but received last minute news of a death in the family. They understandably had to forgo the competition.

But Foote and his War Wagon BBQ team did not want to leave the nonprofit hanging. So they decided to spend Father’s Day serving others. They announced the barbecue as a special event at Maselli & Sons, with all profits from Sunday’s sales donated to underprivileged local youth via the 20-30 Club.

I was eager to try War Wagon at last week’s Ribs for Kids, so I was brimming with anticipation as I drove over to Maselli & Sons on Sunday to pick up two barbecue plates, one for me and one for my mom. Since my father’s passing, I try to spend Father’s Day with my mom. She serves double duty now that dad is gone, so the extra day of “celebration” is the least we can do to thank her.

So how was the food from War Wagon? Let me just say that as certified barbecue judge and regular judge at the Ribs for Kids cook-off, these ribs easily could have taken home top honors. They were perfectly tender, which means not completely falling off the bone, but nearly. And the dry rub was delectable with just the right amount of spice. The plate came with some barbecue chicken, too, which was moist and smoky, as well as sides of mac ‘n’ cheese and cowboy beans infused with a few peppers and a lot of bacon. I later saw they also offer tri-tip, which I am eager to sample.

I cannot wait to try them again, which as it stands, will likely be at the July Fourth celebration at the Petaluma Fairgrounds.

War Wagon BBQ will be popping up more frequently around Petaluma, so follow them on social media to keep up with its schedule. The wagon is also available for catering by contacting or call 951-271-2862.

Petaluman's Journey from Hot Dog Stand to Wealth Management



February 7, 2017

Petaluma-born-and-raised Matthew Larrabure has worked his way into a fascinating career, dispensing financial advice through his association with The FPI Group with Merrill Lynch. Way before that however, young Larrabure explored several occupations, and remembers starting up a hotdog cart business in downtown Petaluma 10 years ago with three college friends.

“We liked hanging out, but said to each other, ‘hey, there’s nothing to eat downtown at night,’ because all the restaurants then would close by eight or nine,” he said. “We did all the research, got our permits and our health department clearance and ran that business for a couple years. It was fun.”

Subsequent endeavors include running a house-painting business with his brother and working for a local real estate developer.

Larrabure started as an assistant at Merrill Lynch 10 years ago now and moved up with the team he was working for. He credits his partners for inspiring him to continue with wealth management.

“They taught me to be genuine and real to clients, and to take care of them. If you take care of your clients and do the right thing every time, they will be with you for a long time,” he said.

Looking for interesting things to do around town, Larrabure and his wife Kate joined the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club in 2012. Larrabure served as its treasurer for three years, then vice-president and now president of the club. Petaluma Active 20-30 is a community service organization that focuses on raising money for local children along with actively working directly with them.

“Our main ‘give back’ is our annual children’s shopping spree where we take kids back-to-school shopping,” he said. “They get over $160 worth of new clothes that they like and want, and that fit along with school supplies, shoes, haircuts and more.”

This past year, the club was able to sponsor 50 kids, the most the club has ever done.

“We, the members, actively support and work on different kid-based activities, doing all the work ourselves. The money we raise stays here locally in our direct community and 100 percent of donations go toward supporting kids,” Larrabure said.

Larrabure has been part of the Petaluma Toastmasters club for many years and supports his childhood church, First Presbyterian Church of Petaluma. Also a member of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, and involved with a small business — a local business-networking group he put together with a friend, Larrabure said he’s got a good, but slightly sarcastic sense of humor and a positive attitude.

“I try to treat people with happiness every day. My philosophy is to be nice to people, be happy and positive,” he said. “You never know what people have going on in their life. Being happy, friendly and helpful goes a long way.”

Petaluma Ribs for Kids is Fun for All

By Houston Porter, Argus Courier

June 7, 2016

In only its second year, Ribs for Kids welcomes back an expanded field of competitors, an exciting new panel of judges and a kid-friendly location, which is apropos for an event that raises money for local youth focused charities.

The June 18 event is presented by the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club, a group of men and women between the ages of 20 and 39 that strives to foster personal growth, friendship, networking skills and leadership development through pursuits that have a positive impact in the community, mainly through work to help improve the quality of life for less advantaged children.

Active 20-30 International’s motto is, “One never stands so tall as when kneeling to help a child.” The Petaluma Active 20-30 Club’s fundraising efforts go toward its yearly Children’s Shopping Spree, where disadvantaged youth are given a free shopping spree at Kohl’s of Petaluma.

Looking to do something a bit different than the normal golf tournament, crab feed or gala evening, Active 20-30 realized in 2014 that Petaluma had no barbecue competitions. But unlike professional barbecue competitions with strict rules about cooking and judging, Ribs for Kids is more about camaraderie and fundraising for local kids.

“Yes, we have rules and actually a judging system, but the thing we love about this event is that the competitors are regular people,” said Matthew J. Larrabure, the event organizer. “There are other barbecue events for professionals, who drive in from out of state, but our event is for locals who enjoy grilling and barbecuing and want to compete in a fun atmosphere and, in the end, help support the children of our community, because that is what it is all about.”

The club learned a lot from the inaugural Ribs for Kids event, primarily that they needed more space.

“Mario & John’s was a great location for our first year, but space was limited,” Larrabure said. “We were looking to expand and were lucky to partner with the First Presbyterian Church (at 939 B St.), who are letting us use their entire grounds.”

The new location will not only have space for live entertainment and games, but will also allow patrons to bring their kids, which was not a possibility at last year’s bar location. This year’s event will also offer sides, such as fruit, coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob.

Event sponsors include Fishman Supply, Petaluma Hills Brewing Company, Mario & John’s, Vine & Barrel, Graffiti, City Sports Club and Korbel California Champagne.

Differentiating themselves from nationally-sanctioned barbecue events, where competitors spend vast amounts of time and money preparing for competition, the entry fee for Ribs for Kids includes the cost of ribs, which are supplied to event organizers at a deep discount by Raley’s.

Each team sets up their equipment first thing in the morning, and once they receive their eight racks of baby back ribs, the magic begins.

“Some people go basic, some with a spice rub, some with traditional barbecue sauce, and some even experiment with a fruity flare,” Larrabure said. “There is no ideal or perfect sauce. The key is to cook the ribs properly.”

Although the entry deadline has passed, organizers have extended a special deadline for Argus-Courier readers to June 11. For anyone interested in trying a rib competition, whether you have your own secret recipe or not, this is a great way to put your toe in the proverbial barbecue sauce, all while helping disadvantaged kids.

After years of slim pickings in the barbecue department, Petaluma seems to finally have come into its own with the opening of several fall-off-the-bone ribs, tender beef brisket and finger-licking good pulled pork restaurants. However, for an even wider array of barbecue flavors in one place, Ribs for Kids is a great event where the public can reap the sweet and savory benefits of an amateur barbecue competition, all while helping to raise money for a great cause.

The June 18 event is from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 939 B St. Pre-sale tickets are $30, or $35 at the door. Ages 13 through 20 are $20, or $25 at the door. Kids ages 12 and younger are free.

2nd Annual Ribs for Kids

It's barbecue season in Petaluma!

Houston Porter, Petaluma Argus Courier

May 11, 2016

Ribs for Kids is coming up on Saturday June 18. Presented by the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club, this event raises money to help disadvantaged youth.

I look forward to judging the event, as I did last year, when teams offered up quite a tasty selection of ribs. This year’s venue is the First Presbyterian Church, which offers space for fun and games, and allows families to bring to their kids.



Fresh Start For Local Kids

Post by Sonoma Life Magazine

One shoe at a time...

At 5 a.m. 11 more Than 100 young adults will gather outside Kohl’s in Petaluma eagerly waiting to get inside the store.You might think they’re gearing up for a super sale, but you’d be wrong: Active 20-30’s Children’s Shopping Spree is about to begin.

Three Chapters of the Active 20–30 Club (with members between 20 and 39 years old) will join the effort with other chapters around the region, state and country to help children in need buy clothes for the upcoming school year.But more than that, volunteers connect with students in a way that they hope will make a lasting difference.