Laguna Beach resident Dennis Yang, who has written over 110 children stories under the pen name Papa Didos, finished a 3,281-mile cross-country journey last year where he gave away books to children along the way. He’s returned to the road, this time making a local pit stop at the Laguna Beach Boys and Girls Club on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
“We are going to reverse the trend of falling test scores and expanding waistlines,” said Yang, 37, who established the Papa Didos Ideals Foundation in 2010 and has since given away thousands of children’s books across the country, and read to kids in schools, children’s hospitals, orphanages, and community centers.
The name of the foundation and his pen name were what his adopted son called Yang before he could speak more clearly. His son figures in his foundation’s purpose as well. “My life took a turn because of my little boy. While I was in Asia the only way I could keep my presence strong in his life was to write him letters. I began sending him stories and before long the stories began to pile up,” said Yang, who began his writing career in entertainment, author of the screenplay and film “Prayer for the Dead,” about the Chinese mafia.
Now, Yang fills his daytime calendar with author appearances at schools and at night he is enrolled in childhood development classes and coaches beginning runners at a local running academy. He’s also drafting a biography that includes his experiences on his cross-country feat.
Yang’s organization champions kid’s literature and fit kids. “The entire time I wrote, my running provided me with a constant escape and my creativity blossomed. The synergy between the mind and body was obvious,” said Yang.
Yang’s boyhood was spent in several countries where he had relatives. His father, a chemistry teacher, worked at the University of Arizona and University of Taiwan. His parents met in Ohio. On the foundation website, Yang describes growing up in several cultures and witnessing the difference education and reading made in peoples lives. He is fluent in four languages.