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The Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club was the big winner when the La Costa 35 Athletic Club held its poker tournament Nov. 13 to raise money for kids in need. Courtesy photo
The Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club was the big winner when the La Costa 35 Athletic Club held its poker tournament Nov. 13 to raise money for kids in need. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: La Costa athletic club deals a winning hand for Boys & Girls Club

Rob Holzman raised his hand 10 years ago to aid the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club. He aimed to help the youngsters who were short on cash but longed to hang with their buddies.

“The view of Carlsbad is that everyone is wealthy,” said Holzman, a Carlsbad resident. “But there are a lot of kids in need.”

So Holzman got his pals together to start a fundraiser, one that involved hundreds of hands playing poker.

The poker tournament, won recently by Scott McGhee, became a roaring success. The latest night of dealing and bluffing brought in $40,000 for the club’s after-school activities.

“The program cost $50, but a third of the children can’t afford it,” said Pat Maldi, the club’s director of development. “What Rob and his friends do is bridge the gap, because we never turn anyone away for a lack of funds.”

A few members of the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club participate in its after-school programs. Thanks to the La Costa 35 Athletic Club’s poker tournament, $40,000 was raised for the children. Courtesy photo
A few members of the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club participate in its after-school programs. Thanks to the La Costa 35 Athletic Club’s poker tournament, $40,000 was raised for the children. Courtesy photo

So Holzman pitches in with a huge assist from fellow softball and football players in the La Costa 35 Athletic Club. Over a decade the LC35AC has donated $400,000 for children who aren’t their own, and that really doesn’t matter.

“We’ve made a difference and that is the most important thing,” Holzman, 54, said.

Maldi nods, then stiff-arms tears. The pandemic that derailed everyone’s life in some manner hit those financially at-risk children especially hard.

“There are so many families where a parent has lost a job, or a single parent has to work at home because they can’t afford child care or they need food,” Maldi said. “For them, the club is like a second home. They know the other kids and they are kind of adopted by us. It’s nice for them to know that someone cares.”

Some 450 children head for one of the clubs, either in downtown Carlsbad or the Bressi Ranch branch, after the school bell rings. That’s when the real fun starts as kids are allowed to be kids.

“It’s not like their mom signs them up for soccer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Maldi said. “We let the children choose what they want to do. Maybe it’s robotics, art or playing in the gym. Sometimes they briefly sit in the corner of a class until they are ready to get involved. They are getting some great life lessons by learning on their own.”

The real education is absorbed by those with a misconception about Carlsbad. While it’s among North County’s most affluent municipalities, that doesn’t mean everyone drives a Tesla and lives atop a hill.

Once a visitor to Holzman’s house was incredulous that he was raising money for Carlsbad tykes, speculating that all is well, for all.

“There are some people that really can’t afford to live here,” Holzman said. “There are single parents that don’t have the support or network of other family members. I get it, that people think everyone is rich in Carlsbad, but walk around downtown sometime and it’s easy to see that there are a lot of kids in need.”

We need more people like Holzman and his LC35AC colleagues. Sure they have a blast flipping cards, but that they can change lives in a positive way is a winning hand no matter the dealer.

“This money goes to kids that need it most,” said Karl Burk, the LC35AC president.

Holzman is doing something nice, and there’s never harm in doing that.

“He does 99.9 percent of the work for this,” Maldi said. “I just think he has a heart of gold.”

Holzman shrugs, surprised at what the poker tournament has evolved into. It’s easy to find of a show of hands of those pleased with Holzman’s efforts.

“I never thought I would be running this 10 years later,” Holzman said. “But it’s a unique way our club gives back to the community while also showing our appreciation for using the city’s fields. We raise money for kids and that’s what makes LC35AC different and unique.”

The same could be said for Holzman.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports

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