Clay Zamperini Speaks to Sunburst Youth Academy on Power of Forgiveness

On Tuesday, April 14 2015, Clay Zamperini spoke to a group of at-risk teenagers at Sunburst Youth Academy in Los Alamitos, CA. Sunburst Youth Academy is the leading alternative education program for High School Dropouts.

After a a documentary was shown detailing the life of Louis Zamperini, Clay Zamperini shared his insights on what it means to be a survivor, and what forgiveness really means.

After a a documentary was shown detailing the life of Louis Zamperini, Clay Zamperini shared his insights on what it means to be a survivor, and what forgiveness really means.

The weekend prior to his appearance, the students at Sunburst were shown the film Unbroken over the span of two days. "After watching the first half of the film on Saturday, all I heard from the cadets was 'when can we finish the movie?' I've never seen them respond to something quite like this before," noted one staff member.

A documentary detailing the true story of Louis Zamperini was shown to the students, preparing them for what Clay had to share. "People always ask me, 'What is it like being Louis Zamperini's grandson?" Clay noted that what made his grandfather such an extraordinary man wasn't his athletic prowess, his survival at sea, or his experience in a Japanese POW camp. "It was the content of his character that made him the amazing man that he was. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that there were several rules, or values that he adhered to throughout his life. These values influenced every choice he made, how he decided to treat other people, and ultimately, how he viewed life."

Hope is the power of the human soul to endure. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim it may seem, nor how far away it is.
— Clay Zamperini
When asked if anyone in the room held a grudge against someone that they hadn't yet forgiven, nearly every hand was raised.

When asked if anyone in the room held a grudge against someone that they hadn't yet forgiven, nearly every hand was raised.

In addition to sharing his grandfathers story, Clay shared his insights on survival and forgiveness. "A survivor perseveres, that is, he doesn’t give up, no matter what. He won’t take the easy way out by feeling sorry for his situation, he will do something to change that situation. Every one of you sitting in here has made that decision to persevere by choosing to come to Sunburst."

A show of hands was asked for, asking the students to identify if they had someone in their life that had hurt them, that they haven't forgiven. Nearly every hand in the auditorium was raised. Clay challenged the students to take Louis' remarkable act of forgiveness as an example, and wipe the slate clean of their own grudges. Relaying the words that his grandfather left him with, he reiterated "Hating someone who has wronged you does not hurt them. It only hurts you. It builds up inside, and your hatred weighs your heart down to the point where you can no longer love others, or love yourself. When you let go of that, you release your burden and free yourself."

"The response was phenomenal. These young men and women needed to hear this message, and I could see that their hearts and minds were truly receptive. Having the privilege of knowing the stories of some of these students, it occurred to me that they had a tremendous opportunity to forgive," says Clay. "Seeing how my grandfather's story affects young people, and realizing my own ability to be his conduit after he has left this earth, it has become so clear to me that like my grandfather before me, serving youth is my life's mission."

The Louis Zamperini Foundation Donates a Little Free Library to the Torrance Police Department.

Clay Zamperini and Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey prepare to cut the ribbon unveiling the library.

Clay Zamperini and Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey prepare to cut the ribbon unveiling the library.

The Louis Zamperini Foundation, A Chance For Children, LAPD, and Little Free Library have teamed up to place a Little Free Library in the lobby of the Torrance Police Station. A Little Free Library is a “take a book, leave a book” gathering place where members of the community can share their favorite stories. A Chance For Children has placed Little Free Libraries into every LAPD station in Los Angeles, to great success. We are so thrilled to be sharing this with the Torrance Police Department.

A ribbon cutting event and the reading of a story to a class of 35 pre-schoolers from First Lutheran school in Torrance took place Monday morning.

A ribbon cutting event and the reading of a story to a class of 35 pre-schoolers from First Lutheran school in Torrance took place Monday morning.

Torrance Chief of Police, Mark Matsuda, said, “Child custody exchanges take place in the police department lobby regularly and the Little Free Library will be a welcoming activity for all involved."

The books target children ages six-16, and are free. All children are invited to stop by and pick out a book (or two) to read or drop one off to share.

 "Child custody exchanges take place in the police department lobby regularly and the Little Free Library will be a welcoming activity for all involved." - Torrance Chief of Police, Mark Matsuda

 "Child custody exchanges take place in the police department lobby regularly and the Little Free Library will be a welcoming activity for all involved." - Torrance Chief of Police, Mark Matsuda

Little Free Library in Torrance Police Station Funded by The Louis Zamperini Foundation

Little Free Library in Torrance Police Station
Funded by The Louis Zamperini Foundation

For Immediate Release - Torrance, CA:  On Monday, April 13th, Clay Zamperini, Executive Director, Victory Boys Camp / The Louis Zamperini Foundation www.louiszamperinifoundation.org and grandson of the late Torrance Hometown Hero, Louis Zamperini, will install a Little Free Library in the lobby of the Torrance Police Department. The Louis Zamperini Foundation is teaming with A Chance for Children (ACFC) www.achanceforchildren.org to promote and create literacy -- starting in the lobbies of Los Angeles Police Departments (LAPD).  The concept of the Little Free Librarywww.LittleFreeLibrary.org is "take a book, return a book."  

A Ribbon cutting event and the reading of a story to a class of 35 pre-schoolers from First Lutheran school in Torrance will take place on Monday, April 13th, 2015, at 10:00 AM, in front of the Torrance Police Station (3300 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, CA 90503).   

Louis Zamperini had a close connection with the Torrance Police Dept., as that is how is track career "unofficially" got started --running from the police.  It began at the early age of two, when he was sick with pneumonia, he climbed out his window "and went on a naked dash through town with a policeman chasing him and a crowd watching in amazement," as noted in the Young Reader's edition of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

A Chance for Children has worked year round since 1994 with homeless and disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles providing a variety of educational and athletic activities, after school programs, summer camps, and college tuition.  Their latest endeavor has been Little Free Libraries in the lobbies of LAPD stations. 

Louis Zamperini was a great supporter of ACFC for almost 20 years, giving his time every summer to speak at their summer camp, as well as participating in many events from hikes to USC football game outings throughout the year. 

It is the idea of keeping these partnerships alive that The Louis Zamperini Foundation and A Chance for Children have partnered with the LAPD and Little Free Libraries to bring a library to the Torrance Police Department. Torrance Chief of Police, Mark Matsuda, said, "Child custody exchanges take place in the police department lobby regularly and the Little Free Library will be a welcoming activity for all involved."  

The books target children ages six - 16, and are free. All children are invited to stop by and pick out a book (or two) to read or drop one off to share.  The Little Free Library at the Torrance Police Dept. will be maintained by the Juvenile Diversion Dept. -- book donations are welcome.  From the stomping grounds of Louis Zamperini, the Old Torrance Neighborhood Association is starting the donation campaign by giving 10 copies of the Young Reader's edition of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand to this library.  For those interested in making donations, contact Shannon Flannery, M.A., MFT, Juvenile Diversion Coordinator, at 310.618.5555 or SFlannery@TorranceCA.Gov.

Victory Boys Camp Reboot featured in Torrance Daily Breeze

Louis Zamperini's grandson, Clay Zamperini, reboots his grandfather's nonprofit youth organization, Victory Boys Camp.