By Theresa Harrington
The plight of Mt. Diablo school district athletes has touched the hearts of many who have helped keep after-school sports alive this year, without district funds.
Many of them came together at a fundraising dinner last week to celebrate the camaraderie that has developed between the district’s six high school communities and to forge ahead with fundraising for next year.
The mood was festive at the Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek on April 22, with guests wearing attire that ranged from fancy party dresses to sports team sweatshirts. But the commitment to students who play sports — and the coaches who lead them — was unwavering.
Auctioneer Steve Hayworth said news reports spurred him to pick up the phone and call the district, even though he doesn’t live within its boundaries.
“When I read the articles, I was flabbergasted that any school would consider eliminating sports,” Hayworth said. “I called the superintendent and I said, ‘I want to help.’”
Oakland Raider Sam Williams moved the audience when he spoke fondly of his days as “Mr. Defense” on the Clayton Valley High School football team and expressed his desire to help his alma mater and other district schools.
“I don’t know where I would be without Clayton Valley High School football,” said Williams, 29, who grew up in Clayton. “I’m so honored to be here with you tonight to save the programs and save our youth. And I can promise you — this will not be the last time you hear of me trying to make a difference.”
Williams said he has started a foundation called “Tackling the Odds” aimed at helping underprivileged kids. You can see a video of him talking about his foundation and community involvement on the Oakland Raiders’ website.
Williams helped auction off merchandise, then posed for photos and cheerfully handed out autographs. Retired Oakland Raider Art Thoms was also at the event, chatting with attendees including Northgate High School Principal John McMorris.
“I talked to him and he was a very nice guy,” McMorris said.
In this economy, McMorris said he’s concerned that parents may start to feel “tapped out” by all the school fundraising they are asked to support.
“I worry about donor fatigue,” he said. “We had a Spring Fling fundraising event and a crab feed and we ask for money at open house. And you always tap the same people.”
The United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation, or UMDAF, is trying to come up with new ideas for raising money to keep people motivated to fund sports. The foundation will share some proceeds from the May 29-31 Concord KidFest with the Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation. Board members are also planning another 5K run October 10 in Concord’s Newhall Park.
In addition, supporters can sponsor an athlete or buy T-shirts or wine to benefit the foundation. For details, visit the foundation website at www.unitedmtdiabloathletics.org.
Superintendent Steven Lawrence, who swam and played water polo in high school, told me he was impressed by the turnout and the community support at the fundraiser. He said the foundation treasurer sent him an e-mail today reporting that Sport Aid brought in $25,000.
“For a first annual event — to raise $25,000 — that’s fantastic,” Lawrence said. “So, they’re just obviously doing a good job and they’re taking this very seriously to make sure our children experience athletics.”
Do you think the foundation has enough momentum to raise another $1.2 million for next year?
By Theresa Harrington