Local sports celebrities event to benefit charities

ENCINITAS — What began as a desire to encourage young children and teenagers to adopt a healthy lifestyle has evolved into a showcase event featuring world-famous athletes and an exhibition by local skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.
A Sporting Life — Get in the Game, sponsored by the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, is expected to attract more than 2,500 people to Oak Crest Middle School from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 23.
In addition to the performance by Hawk and some of his friends from the skateboarding world, A Sporting Life will include basketball free-throw contests, volleyball and Frisbee games, rock climbing and a chance to score goals against the San Diego Sockers, the most successful professional indoor soccer team.
There will also be health and nutrition booths, raffles and entertainment by Eve Selis Band at 10:15 a.m., The New Archaic at 11:30 a.m. and Stripes and Lines at 3:30 p.m.
Throughout the day, attendees can meet and take photographs with Olympic and world champion athletes such as Sinjin Smith, considered by many to be the most successful player in beach volleyball history; former San Diego Charger Venice Glenn; Mitch Gaylord, the first American male gymnast to score a perfect 10; triple-jump Olympians Al Joyner and Willie Banks; and Kaitlin Sandeno, four-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
Marshall Weinreb, chief executive officer for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, said he contacted Shaun White, North County’s back-to-back Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, but his schedule was uncertain.
“For all I know, he may show up,” Weinreb said.
The goal was to create an event using sports as a vehicle for the chamber to do its part to increase awareness about how a healthy lifestyle can help families combat childhood obesity.
“It certainly isn’t a novel idea, but it’s something we’re always concerned about,” he said. “I just knew I wanted to do something for the kids and for sports because we have a very dynamic and productive health care committee and education committee at the chamber. It seemed like a good combination.”
Weinreb said getting Hawk onboard was “divine destiny.”
“I caught Tony Hawk between trips,” he said. “He was here for two days. We met for breakfast and I asked him if he was interested in helping. He immediately said, ‘Sure, what do you want me to do?’
“One thing led to another and we had an event,” Weinreb said.” I pinched myself at how lucky I was.”
Weinreb wanted to involve as many athletes as possible. “They didn’t become champions by eating poorly,” he said. “They understand the value of quality of life through good nutrition and a good attitude.
“It’s one thing for a doctor to tell a kid to lose weight. It’s more significant coming from an athlete. That’s what’s at the bottom of this.”
Finally, it was important that the event benefit a charity. “My original thought was something big, like the Special Olympics,” Weinreb said. “But then I decided to find local charities.”
He and a committee of about 40 people considered about a half dozen organizations and finally selected Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, Rancho Coastal Humane Society and STAR/PALS.
Fresh Start Surgical Gifts
Since its inception in 1991, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts has provided more than $17 million of free reconstructive surgery and comprehensive medical services to nearly 5,000 children and young adults who suffer from physical deformities caused by birth defects, accidents, abuse or disease.
Weinreb said the Carlsbad-based nonprofit organization, with a team of 600 local volunteers, “was a no-brainer” to support.
Shari Brasher, Fresh Start executive director, said she was “very thrilled to death” to be selected as a beneficiary. “This is a very tough climate to raise funds,” she said. “The money will give us the ability to help all the children get a fresh start. It says a lot about Tony Hawk and the community.”
Rancho Coastal Humane Society
Founded by a group of volunteers in 1960, Rancho Coastal Humane Society provides shelter, adoption services and a safe-house program for homeless animals in San Diego. The Encinitas nonprofit organization also offers an education program that focuses on teaching children the importance of proper care and compassion toward animals.
“Rancho Coastal has supported us in the past, so we wanted to give back,” Weinreb said. “Plus, everybody loves dogs and cats.”
“We’re very excited, obviously, to be part of this event,” Rancho Coastal CEO Jim Silveira said.
“An important piece of living a healthy lifestyle is to get introduced to different sports, which this will do. It will provide a lot of useful information and be fun.”
Rancho Coastal will use the money to better diagnose and treat animals. “It’s frustrating and limiting not being able to do that,” Silveira said. “Extra funds for medical care and surgeries are essential for us.”
STAR/PAL
Sports Training, Academics & Recreation/Police Athletic League brings youth and law enforcement together to help decrease juvenile crimes and violence, provide role models, offer positive leisure activities and keep young people in school.
The organization provides free educational, athletic and recreational services to children aged 6 to 17 in underserved and inner-city neighborhoods in San Diego.
“Events like this are huge for us,” Glenna Spadaro, STAR/PAL events marketing manager, said. “This will go a long way in making a difference in kids’ lives. It’s a real honor to be chosen as a beneficiary the first year because I think this is going to become an iconic event for the city.”
Weinreb agrees. “I think we’re onto something here, so I hope what we produce will be successful so we can build on it,” he said. “It’s turned into something incredible. This is a great opportunity for families in paradise to do something together and count our blessings that we get to live and work here.”
The cost is $10 for general admission and $8 for military members and seniors. Children under 5 are free. Tickets are available at www.encinitaschamber.com or at the chamber office, 859 Second Street.
Attendees will be automatically entered to win one of four Tony Hawk skateboards, which Hawk will autograph when he meets the winners in a VIP tent at the event.

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