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Junior Seau Foundation

When he’s in the middle of a game, former San Diego Charger star linebacker Junior Seau only thinks about defense. But off the field, Seau is all about offense as he strategizes new ways to help San Diego’s young people improve their lives.

This isn’t just lip service. In 1992, his rookie year in the NFL, Seau created his own organization to provide financial support for local charities. Now, even as Seau plays for the Miami Dolphins, the Junior Seau Foundation continues to have a dedicated staff, annual contributions near $500,000 and a never-ending commitment to youth.

“The focus is on children,” says executive director Bette Hoffman. “Junior sees himself in these kids, and he wants to make a difference and give back.”

Seau is a local boy, a 1987 graduate of Oceanside High. While he hasn’t always been with the Chargers, Seau has always considered San Diego to be his home.

With the motto “Together Everyone Achieves More” (TEAM), the Junior Seau Foundation emphasizes programs that allow young people “to face life’s ­challenges with enthusiasm, hope and ­dignity.”

During the past fiscal year, the foundation donated more than $496,000 in funds. The money went to a long list of worthy causes, including literacy education, health research and violence prevention. Recipients included the Boys & Girls Club, the San Diego Unified School District, Big Brothers Big Sisters and dozens more.

Some of the funds go to the foundation’s own special programs, including “Shop with a Jock” and the “Scholars of Excellence.”

“Shop with a Jock” is an annual event held in conjunction with the Mervyn’s ­department-store chain. Athletes accompany 400 children as they go shopping for gifts, but there’s a twist—the gifts aren’t for the kids themselves but for their own loved ones.

“The kids see the role models of the athletes taking time out during football season to help them. Just think of what it would mean for them to spend an hour one-on-one with Junior Seau or Drew Brees,” Hoffman says. “But it’s not just football players who participate. It’s the Padres, it’s coaches, it’s retired people. Everybody contributes to make this a great event.”

The Junior Seau Foundation is also proud of its Scholars of Excellence program, which offers scholarships—at least $1,000 for each year of college—to local students, including those who may not be eligible for other scholarships. “We try to focus on some of the kids who fall through the cracks,” says Hoffman, who has worked to create a $600,000 endowment to keep the scholarships alive long into the future.

If you’d like to help the Junior Seau Foundation, call 858-244-SEAU or visit the Web site, juniorseau.org, for more information.

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