Balloons Over Bullets volunteers pitch in on community cleanup at S. Stockton homeless camp

Balloons Over Bullets volunteers pitch in on community cleanup at S. Stockton homeless camp

Balloons Over Bullets volunteers pitch in on community cleanup at S. Stockton homeless camp

A group of volunteers with the Balloons Over Bullets nonprofit group spent the morning of Saturday, June 12, 2021, cleaning up trash from a homeless encampment at Grant and Worth streets in south Stockton. Brittany Bobian with the group says that she purchased the lot on which part of the camp sits on with future plans of creating housing for the homeless to reside in.

Julian Williams spent Saturday morning as a part of a volunteer group with the Balloons of Bullets nonprofit cleaning up trash at a homeless encampment at Grant and Worth streets in south Stockton.

Balloons over Bullets and CPFSJ give families a taste of Halloween fun

Balloons over Bullets and CPFSJ give families a taste of Halloween fun

Balloons over Bullets and CPFSJ give families a taste of Halloween fun

by: Bob Highfill
Posted: Nov 1 , 2020

STOCKTON – Fresh off his victory in a whipped cream eating contest against his younger brother, 9-year-old Daniel Cruz-Torres was looking forward to the water balloon fight.

Near him, several kids wearing Halloween costumes trick-or-treated, painted tiny pumpkins, took part in a spider toss game, grabbed pumpkins to take home or stood in line for hot dogs fresh off the grill.

Nine-year-old Daniel Cruz-Torres, left, competes with his 8-year-old brother Jordan Torres in a pie-eating contest at the Balloons Over Bullets Halloween event at Weberstown Park in Stockton.
“It’s so much fun,” said Demar Johnson, a Stockton native, musician and community activist, who launched Balloons over Bullets to restore activities for youth in Stockton. “There’s so much love and we’re getting ready to do a water balloon fight.”

On Saturday afternoon, Weberstown Park in Stockton was a Halloween wonderland as Balloons over Bullets presented a mini-harvest festival in conjunction with the Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, which has a resource center across the street from the park on Kentfield Road in the Villa Monterey apartments.

Balloons over Bullets founder DeMar Johnson hands out candy at the organization’s Halloween event this weekend. “Today is all about the kids,” Johnson said. “Our new partnership with CPFSJ, they informed us they weren’t going to be doing anything with the kids this year, so we said, ‘Why not?’ We have to do something for the kids in the community, so we’re here now.”
More:Balloons over Bullets: Stockton groups bring water fun to combat violence

“Today is all about the kids,” Johnson said. “Our new partnership with CPFSJ, they informed us they weren’t going to be doing anything with the kids this year, so we said, ‘Why not?’ We have to do something for the kids in the community, so we’re here now.”

Carina Garza, dressed as a zombie, held her two-month-old daughter, Xiomara, while three of her little ones played nearby. Garza and her kids have attended Balloons over Bullets and other family events and said they’re always fun.

“Due to COVID, I think it’s smaller this year,” Garza said. “It’s something for them do because I don’t know if they’re doing trick-or-treating this year or not. We like to go to events.”

Carina Garza wore ghoulish makeup while holding her 2-month old frog-costume-wearing daughter Xiomara Garza at the Balloons Over Bullets’ Halloween event at Weberstown Park in Stockton.
Monique Sauceda, site manager at Villa Monterey Community Resource Center with CPFSJ, has worked with several organizations, including the Stockton Police Department, at community outreach events to draw attention to CPFSJ’s services, such as year-round tax assistance, case management, employment training, youth programs, and a homework pod that’s in the works at Villa Monterey with Balloons Over Bullets.

“We’re hoping to start that in the next two to three weeks,” Sauceda said. “We meet families and individuals where they are. We’re a safe place for anybody to come in.”

Water Balloons Instead of Bullets, A Stockton Man’s Movement to Help End Violence Among Teens

Water Balloons Instead of Bullets, A Stockton Man’s Movement to Help End Violence Among Teens

Water Balloons Instead of Bullets, A Stockton Man’s Movement to Help End Violence Among Teens

by: Ken Mashinchi
Posted: Apr 27, 2018 / 11:39 PM PDT / Updated: Apr 27, 2018 / 11:38 PM PDT

STOCKTON – Summer is right around the corner and so is the end of the school year. One Stockton man’s concern for what teens will do with their free time lead to “Balloons over Bullets.”

Demar Johnson hopes that teens stay away from violence and turn towards something positive.

Friday was Johnson’s first venture into his Balloons Over Bullets campaign, meant to encourage teens to stay away from violence this summer and instead, just be a kid.

“You can’t come at kids like you did 10 years ago. Right now, they need the fun because they are seeing less and less of it,” said Johnson.

Johnson was born and raised in Stockton and through his artist name, “Spook D. Lieutenant,” has popped up around town for years promoting positivity through rapping.

But he says now he wants to reach out to kids because summer presents an opportunity for teens to get into trouble; he wants to break that cycle in Stockton by encouraging them to take back the streets and have fun, while spreading a positive message.

“Balloons over bullets. I’d rather you all get hit by balloons then bullets,” said Johnson. “I’d rather y’all out here in the summer having fun than doing anything else. The kids, they are maturing faster nowadays and that’s what we need to attack. We need to remind them that it’s ok to be kids,” he said.

When the battle ended, Johnson preached his message, balloons over bullets, which several teens said really resonated with them. For Johnson, he knows it will take thousands of balloons, but it’s a message he is prepared to spend all summer sharing.

“If you walk outside your house every day and see a sign of life, like a garden, kids playing, smiles, then that’s going to leave something too, and that’s my goal with this,” said Johnson.

Johnson plans to pop up in other spots around Stockton before the school year is over, in hopes that this movement will gain momentum into the summer.

Fourth day of protests in Stockton

Fourth day of protests in Stockton

Fourth day of protests in Stockton

Several hundred people protested on the corner of Pacific Avenue and March Lane in Stockton on Friday, June 5, over the death of George Floyd who died at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers last week.over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police last week.
DeMar Johnson with Balloons over Bullets, leads a chant during a protest on Pacific Avenue and March Lane in Stockton on Friday, June 5,

Tobin Moore was a part of several hundred people who marched down Pacific Avenue between March Lane and Robinhood Drive in Stockton on Friday, June 5, to protest the death of George Floyd who died at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers last week.

Stockton Police officers line up to block protesters progress on Pacific Avenue at Robinhood Drive in Stockton.

Debrille Spencer was a part of several hundred people who marched down Pacific Avenue between March Lane and Robinhood Drive in Stockton on Friday, June 5, to protest the death of George Floyd who died at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers last week.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Veber Salazar speaks at a protest on Pacific Avenue between March Lane and Robinhood Drive in Stockton on Friday, June 5, over the death of George Floyd who died at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers last week.

Stockton Native Uses Hollywood Unlocked Winnings Towards Fun Packs For Youth Amid Coronavirus

Stockton Native Uses Hollywood Unlocked Winnings Towards Fun Packs For Youth Amid Coronavirus

Stockton Native Uses Hollywood UnlockedWinnings Towards Fun Packs For Youth Amid Coronavirus

Written by Ariela Anís April 25, 2020
Photo Credit: Facebook/Demetrius Stigar

Stockton Native Uses Hollywood Unlocked Winnings Towards Fun Packs For Youth Amid Coronavirus
Stockton native and Hollywood Unlocked “15K In 15 Days Giveaway” winner, Brittany Bobian, has shared her winnings with Stockton’s kids via the organization, Balloons Over Bullets. Together, they’ve used their $1,000 earnings to create fun packs for the youth quarantining at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bobian, along with BOB founder DeMar Johnson, and Katrina Espinosa, Demetrius Stigar and more have put together fun packs including 20,000 water balloons, silly string, clay, water guns, jump ropes, pencils, markers, chalk, crayons, stickers, kites, bubbles and more.

RELATED: Hollywood Unlocked’s $15k In 15 Days Giveaway!

Speaking with the Stockton Record, Johnson says, “I was looking for the safest, the cheapest and the funnest way for kids to get active and still keep up social distancing. I’ll be doing this until I can go back outside and have balloon fights with kids. It’s not just me. It is going to be a lot of people helping me make this happen. This is just my chance to remind kids it’s OK to be kids.”

Stockton groups bring water fun to combat violence

Stockton groups bring water fun to combat violence

Balloons over Bullets: Stockton groups bring water fun to combat violence

By Emma Franklin Henterly
Posted May 19, 2018 at 6:48 PM
Updated May 19, 2018 at 6:48 PM

STOCKTON — Harmoni Johns stopped, wound up her arm and launched a yellow water balloon at her target.

“This is great,” the 6-year-old said, her neon pink top and turquoise shorts sopping wet as water continued to splash all around her.

She and dozens of other children of all ages armed themselves with water balloons and water guns as they darted in all directions, laughing, shouting and enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon at Gleason Park.

Stockton native DeMar Johnson helped organize Balloons over Bullets, a water bash to bring positive activities to the city’s children. With all the violence and shootings that never stop, it’s important to give these kids a future, he said.

“My hope is that this is one more thing for kids,” he said. “It’s one more activity that kids can do outside that’s positive, rather than adding to the problem.”

Johnson held the first Balloons over Bullets in April at Cesar Chavez High School but felt he needed to expand his reach to all of Stockton youth. In early May, the organizers hosted an event at Panella Park.

The free family event, which includes other activities such as a barbecue, a kickball game and a Slip-N-Slide relay, is made possible by a coalition between three Stockton organizations: Hopes and Dreams, Lions and Queens, and Balloons over Bullets.

Many young people in Stockton are exposed to violence and have come to expect it and believe it’s normal, said Jefferson Stricklen, executive director of Lions and Queens. This is a way to show them that there’s a better life out there.

“Life can be good, life can be fun,” he said. “We decided to pick a community to go to and let them come out and enjoy life. A lot of our youth and our families have become hostages in their communities and it’s going to take us to break that.”

Communities rely on politicians but they can’t fix the problems, Stricklen said. It’s up to community members to take initiative to return love and fun to their neighborhoods.

Shakayla Robinson said she brought out her 2-year-old son to have fun, and he seemed to really enjoy it.

This is a great event because it brings people together and it’s an activity for the kids, she said.

“If we’re not out here trying to make (life) better, than what are we doing,” Johnson said.

The organizers said more Balloons over Bullets events are planned for the summer. For information, people can find DeMar Johnson on Facebook.

Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or acarpizo@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.