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Jewels of youth: A non-profit that gives joy

Giving back to the community is an important part of today's business cycle. Corporate social responsibility ranks very high on the agenda of Hispanic business owners, specially for Maria Lupe Ibarra-Smith, founder of Jewels of Youth (JOY), a California non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality of life to a very special population segment. 

Ibarra-Smith is the proud mother of Christian and Jayden, twin brothers living with autism spectrum disorder. The boys are growing in a Hispanic American family that traces their ancestry to Mexico. Ibarra-Smith was born in Jalisco, and she arrived in the United States when she was just seven years old. She has fond memories of growing up in a working-class atmosphere underscored by close-knit family ties.

At California State University in Sacramento, Ibarra-Smith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in dance and theater. She continued her education at the Martha Graham School of Dance and later joined several companies, including the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Her love of dance and choreography would later become the basis for her own Hispanic business.

The JOY Foundation

Ibarra-Smith found business success with her own dance studio, but her life focus took on a new direction after her twin sons were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The JOY Foundation represents everything she is passionate about: her children, her artistic career and her desire to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs and their families. The JOY Foundation reaches out to underprivileged children who live with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and similar conditions.

Part of the hard work of Ibarra-Smith includes fundraising. To this end, the JOY Foundation will hold a special event on November 2nd, 2012. "Bring JOY to a Child's Life" will consist of a dinner and auction held at Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, CA. This year's edition of the fundraiser will be a star-studded event thanks to the attendance of Hollywood actors Kiki Melendez, Lilly Melgar, Jessica Jimenez and others. The event will be hosted by Elizabeth Espinoza of Southern California's TV station KTLA.

Ibarra-Smith and her JOY Foundation seek to become a safe haven for children with special needs by providing therapy, counseling and support. Donations can be made on their website jewelsofyouth.org or by calling Ibarra-Smith at (310) 739-1466.

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