The Munificent Seven
We’ve got an actress, pro athletes and a rock star. Learn what inspires these seven local celebrity philanthropists to give back to the San Diego community throughout the year.
OIL BARON and first American billionaire John D. Rockefeller once said, “Think of giving not only as a duty but as a privilege.” In many cases, the act of giving is equally fulfilling for donor and recipient (if not more so for the former). For the San Diego celebrities who speak here, the spirit of giving doesn’t end with the holiday season. Throughout the year, they use their star power to shine a light on the philanthropic causes close to their hearts, from promoting athletics for the physically disabled to empowering young girls through math education. Learn what inspires them to give back to the San Diego community. And visit sandiegomagazine.com to view additional images from our photo shoots with the stars and to read extended interviews.
ACTRESS (TV’S THE WONDER YEARS AND THE FORTHCOMING INDIE FILM 21 AND A WAKE-UP), BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, LA JOLLA NATIVE
I care about . . . boosting girls’ self-esteem through math education.
Girls need more encouragement—they need somebody to tell them it’s cool to be smart, it’s sexy to be smart. You can develop your smarts by doing math and getting good at it. Doing math is like going to the gym for your brain—it makes your mind stronger. I firmly believe that girls make better decisions about everything in life when they have the confidence that comes with feeling smart, whether it’s picking the right guy or choosing a career that’s fulfilling—not feeling limited in any way. I’ve devoted the past few years of my life to writing books [the bestsellers Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math] that teach girls math.
In 2000, I spoke in front of Congress about the importance of women in mathematics. Congress wanted more college scholarship money for girls, thinking it would motivate more girls to get into math and science. But studies have shown that in middle school, that’s when girls’ confidence starts to go down. I’m an entertainer at heart, and I love math, so I knew I could write entertaining books about math. Yes, I want to raise math scores, have girls get better grades and turn some girls into math and science majors—but my real goal with the books is to empower girls to know they can be smart, and to take those smarts to do whatever they want to follow their dreams.
Learn more: danicamckellar.com.
FIRST BASEMAN, SAN DIEGO PADRES
I care about . . . empowering underprivileged youth.
When my wife, Betsy, and I were dating, we said that when we got married we wanted to create our own foundation. Our hearts are in San Diego. We grew up in the South Bay area, where many households don’t have the resources to help kids fully develop their potential. But it’s not just the South Bay—that’s happening all around San Diego. With help from the San Diego Foundation, we opened the Adrian & Betsy Gonzalez Foundation. Our motto is empowering underprivileged youth through athletics, education and health.
The kids are able to learn about work ethic and teamwork. For me, growing up was about learning perseverance—to keep working hard. Education is an important foundation for allowing kids to grow and become professionals in any area of life. We provide books, scholarships—anything that helps kids get the education they need. The third element of our foundation, health, is important because if you don’t have health, you can’t participate in the other two—athletics and education.
For us, serving others is part of living our faith. I want to be an example for kids and pass that along—then they will look for a bible and look for a church.
Learn more: agonzalez23.com.
KICKER, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
I care about . . . giving families with sick children a safe haven.
Coming from a small community in Iowa, it’s been an eye-opening experience to see all the diversity in the San Diego community. There’s a lot of need, and those of us privileged to play professional sports—and make a good living at it—have the opportunity to help out. The Ronald Mc Donald House Charities approached me because they wanted to re-create what some other kickers in San Diego had done in the past. Back in the ’70s, [then-Charger] Rolf Benirscke asked the public to pledge money to charity for every field goal kick he made. Kicks for Kids is a great way to piggyback on the popularity of the Chargers for a great cause. Pledges made by the public will help build a new Ronald McDonald House and help local families with sick children. It was a nobrainer on my part.
My wife and I went to the existing Ronald McDonald House and met with families and heard their stories. The first-hand experience of seeing these kids and their families as they go through a tough time—your heart goes out to them. I want to put a smile on their faces as they go through such challenging times.
We have a healthy five-month old; it gives me a new perspective and appreciation. It’s our responsibility as a community to help families in need.
I can handle a bit more pressure on the field—it’s well worth it.
Learn more: sdkicksforkids.com.
PROFESSIONAL SURFER, CARDIFF RESIDENT
I care about . . . giving kids an environmental awareness.
I moved to Cardiff in 1978. The inspiration behind [the Rob Machado Foundation]—it’s been around for about five years now—was my memories from elementary school, especially art and music classes. I wanted to help provide that for kids. When schools get cuts to their budgets, those are the first programs to get cut.
In the last couple years, environmentalism has become a big thing in my life. Sharing that interest with kids, getting them to care and learn about nature and protecting the environment is important to me. We paired up with the Cardiff Education Foundation, which works with the Cardiff school system. We want to green their schools. We started a water-bottle program where we subsidized stainless-steel bottles for the kids. And we turned their whole lunch program into all recyclables. We also just started an organic gardening project. The idea is to use these schools as an example so other schools can see what a big difference they can make.
The [Rob Machado] Golf Experience is our annual fund-raiser in Solana Beach. It’s not your everyday golf tournament; we try to loosen things up and make it fun and different. Each one has a theme. This past year’s was a rock-star theme. We had teams show up as [band members of] Mötley Crüe and Guns ’n’ Roses. We do weird stuff on the course—you have to hit left-handed at one hole, use a mini-club at another. We go straight to all our friends in the surfing world to get them involved. We’ve also got a lot of local businesses and people in the community who want to support a good cause.
Learn more: robmachadofoundation.org.
GOLF PROFESSIONAL, PHILANTHROPIST, DEL CERRO RESIDENT
I care about . . . giving kids a new beginning.
Every year, [former Charger] John Carney, [former Padre] Phil Nevin and I put on Dinner with the Pros. I bring in the golf aspect; Phil brings in his baseball friends; and John brings in his football ties—you have quite a few celebrities in one room. We give the proceeds to organizations that help teens in crisis. The teenage years are an important turning point in a person’s life. If you help them through those difficult years, you give them a fresh start and set them up to be good, solid adults.
Another cause I support is Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. They help underprivileged kids with physical deformities. Dr. Dennis Nigro performs reconstructive surgeries for free. They help infants, teenagers; they don’t have any set age requirements. If the children are in need, they will help them. You see these kids come in who don’t have the confidence to look you in the face. And to see them years later—these kids feel so different about themselves because they’re not being teased and ridiculed anymore. They really do get a fresh start to life. Learn more: tinamickelson.com; dinnerwiththepros.org; freshstart.org.
TWO-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST SPRINTER (4X400-METER RELAY)
I care about . . . helping the disabled realize their athletic potential.
I train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, where they also have a paralympic program for amputees, blind athletes—athletes with all types of physical disabilities. A lot of the guys who are amputees are my training partners. I spend a lot of time with all of them and am impressed by what they’re doing—they’re very inspiring. One charity I love to support is Sports for Exceptional Athletes. They host athletic and recreational events for athletes with disabilities. From wheelchair athletes to athletes with mental disabilities, they cover the spectrum. I help out with the track-and-field portion. I know how important it is to be active and be involved in some type of competition. It’s human nature—everyone likes to compete and have fun. I want to show them the fun in track and field. I also want to promote athletic opportunities like the Paralympic Games.
I’m working, with the help of my parents, on getting a foundation started in my name. I really want to work with children in the inner city. The track team where I got my start was in the inner city.
LEAD SINGER OF ROCK BAND SWITCHFOOT, ENCINITAS RESIDENT
I care about . . . paying it forward.
The Bro-Am event is a dream of ours because it combines most of our favorite things on the planet—surfing, music, friends and the Encinitas community. It’s a way to give back to the community that’s been very supportive of us. Every year, it’s the most gratifying thing we do, hands down. There’s a surf contest and concert; the big-money portion of the event is a charity auction/ dinner that takes place before the Bro-Am.
I think about the things people have done for us when we were growing up that helped us thrive. This is a chance for me to give that same thing to kids who need it. We really want to celebrate the kids, make them feel important and loved and give them a great day at the beach—because so much of their lives is anything but a day at the beach. It’s a chance for us to teach them how to surf; we give them guitar lessons at the beach—basically, just give the kids a great break from a lot of the pressures and issues they’re dealing with, and raise money for the cause that’s helping them overcome their difficulties.
Every year we partner with a different charity. We’ve worked with Casa de Amparo and Care House. My favorite organization that we’ve supported through Bro-Am—we partnered with them last year—is Stand Up for Kids, which helps out homeless kids. Some of them are completely on their own. These kids are the true heroes of the day.
Danica McKellar: styling by Rose Vasilj; hair and makeup by Caroline Wiseman; dress on cover by BCBG Max Azria ($338), page 89 by Herve Leger; earrings by Jose and Maria Barrera ($340), available at Neiman Marcus. Tina Mickelson: hair and makeup by Mary Erickson. Monique Henderson: hair and makeup by Tawny Bevacqua.