LA84 Foundation Creates Student Athletes Advisory Board

Efforts to include more youth perspectives in philanthropy have been growing in recent years. Adding to this trend is The LA84 Foundation, which recently announced the formation of the LA84 Student Athletes in Motion – a new advisory board of students ages 11 to 17 who represent LA84’s commitment to both sports and civic engagement as essential parts of positive identity development.

The LA84 Foundation has been around since the 1984 Olympics, when $93 million in surplus funds were set aside to create the organization. Since that time, the organization has made more than $250 million in grants to support youth sports, reaching more than 3 million youth over the past three decades in Los Angeles, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

The student athlete ambassadors, called SAMbassadors in honor of Sam the Eagle, the 1984 Olympic games mascot, will add their experience and perspective to the dialogue on how to enrich the community with sports programs, providing guidance about grantmaking, program development, and other activities.

Four of the newly appointed SAMbassadors will also serve on a panel discussion at LA84’s 5th Annual Summit, taking place on October 27, 2016, at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles. The theme of this year’s summit is “playing forward” – a commitment from the foundation to make sure sports are as inclusive as possible, and made available to children in all communities.

“We believe direct youth involvement offers great benefits to both the members of the advisory board as well as to the LA84 Foundation staff,” said Renata Simril, president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation. Simril is relatively new to leading LA84, coming on board in January of 2016, taking the reins from Anita DeFrantz, the former CEO, who led the organization for 28 years. “By inviting youth to actively participate in our work, we are elevating the voices of the youth we serve to ensure that we are making informed decisions that result in measurable impact.”

The four SAMbassadors who will play a key role at the LA84 Foundation Summit are

  • 17-year old Emily Eisner, Founder of Play It Forward;
  • 17-year old SaraJoy Salib, Water Polo Athlete and Outstanding Academic All-American award recipient;
  • 14-year old Jaiher Douglas, two-sport athlete at Augustus Hawkins High School;
  • 11-year old Ezra Frech, Track & Field Parathlete.

These four SAMbassadors will be presenting for the conference’s panel, entitled Voices from the Field: Young Athletes Panel, moderated by Gary Hall, Jr., who is both a five-time Olympic Gold medal swimmer and leader in health and wellness. Sponsors for this year’s summit include The Los Angeles Times, Fox Sports West, The Dodgers Foundation, County of Los Angeles District 2, LA 2024 and the Los Angeles Football Club.

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LA84 Youth Ambassadors at their first meeting at the LA84 Foundation in July 2016. Photo: LA84 Foundation

The LA84 Foundation makes grants to the eight counties in the southern region of California, and also conducts some of its own youth sports and education programs.

Some recent examples of the LA84 Foundation’s local grants from June 2016 include

  • Seneca Family of Agencies – $15,000: To support their Guided Animal Intervention Therapy Program. Funding will be used for the care of the horses including horse feed, supplies, and horseshoeing.
  • Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation – $40,000: To support the recruitment and training of youth football officials as well as the development of a referee observation program for youth football officials.
  • Special Olympics Southern California, Inc. – $85,000: In support of the School Partnership Program to cover uniforms, equipment, transportation and costs associated with their culminating event.
  • Students Run America – $125,000: To cover a partial cost of the program director, stipends for the program coordinators and race entry fees for races leading up to the marathon.
  • Taking The Reins – $15,000: For equipment and horse care provisions to support Taking the Reins Equestrian Program.
  • The GRYD Foundation – $100,000: To support the Summer Night Lights 2016 sports programming, namely jerseys for the soccer, basketball and softball leagues; mobile clinics at select sites; and intervention workers engaging youth and families via sports.

The LA84 Foundation has suspended grantmaking for the remainder of 2016, but plans to continue to make grants in the new year. With the recent changes in leadership, the organization is currently revising its grant guidelines as part of a five-year strategic planning process.

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About Kiersten Marek 22 Articles
Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, and a Senior Editor for Los Angeles-based Inside Philanthropy, where she writes about economic and social philanthropy. Kiersten is also the author of Know Thyself: A Kid's Guide to the Archetypes, an identity development workbook.