Yesterday, I was privileged to get to help the Jim Mora Count on Me Foundation provide kids from around Southern California with the chance to come to the UCLA Football Spring Showcase. While my part was very small, helping put up "tents", tables, and unpack boxes, the joy this event brought to kids from Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations was heart warming.
Almost 400 young people rode luxury buses from as places like Lancaster, Compton, Pasadena, and Watts, to get a great t-shirt, some awesome pizza, a back-pack with cool U.C.L.A. stuff inside, a chance to get autographs, and for eight hard working students, gigantic in-game worn jerseys from our players.
Around 20 people (ranging from age 12 and up) set up around 2 pm and anxiously waited for these great kids to arrive. A group at a time, the kids and their dedicated chaperones joined us and got their back pack and t-shirt. They were having a great time (although several times the people who ran stubhub had to ask them to get off the perfect tree climbing tree) as they put on their new shirts and found treasures in their packs. The kids then got to go over to the fan zone and two of them, upon returning, were telling me about their success in the football throwing area. Oh yes, did I mention they got footballs and snacks for the ride home! The kids returned for pizza and fruit before entering the stadium to watch and cheer on their UCLA Bruins.
At half time, Shannon Mora discussed this year's goal of bringing even more at risk and deserving kids to the Rose Bowl for UCLA football games. She also honored students representing each group who had done really well in school and who were contributing to their communities with game worn jerseys. She spoke of something that I find really spot on when she talked of how young people need to not only be helped, but heard. She said in effect, that young people need to be able share their thoughts, that their voices need to be heard, and that the foundation's goal is to help empower these young people. As a teacher who has worked with kids living in poverty for over 30 years, her words rang so true to me that I choked up hearing these thoughts coming from her.
After the success of bringing more than 300 deserving youth to UCLA home football games during the 2013 season, we decided to set our sights even bigger. The Count On Me Bus 2 The Bowl Program was launched in January 2014 to align with the Foundation's mission of supporting and enriching the lives of children in need and at risk. This program will provide children from the community a chance to experience the thrill of "going to the game" at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena!
Here is the logo that was, and will be on the shirts (I really like it):
Getting to be a small part of this on Saturday, made the whole day even more special for me. I hope some of you out there will get the same opportunity I did to be part of this.