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NEWSMAKER



Skiing: A Reward for Teens

BY MARION WEBB

Staff Writer

When Gary Sams finishes consulting local biotechnology firms on how to market their drugs, his focus shifts to a cause for which treatments are many, but success is rare: troubled teens.

Sams’ strategy, namely to reward youths who have managed to turn their lives around, has already proven to be a blockbuster drug for societal change.

This year, the executive director of Youth Sports Mentoring Organization of San Diego, a nonprofit group seeking to help troubled teens by getting them involved in sports and the community, is rewarding 35 local youths who have met a set goal with a weekend skiing trip to Mammoth Mountain.

The trip is scheduled from April 28 through April 30.

Sponsors include Hansen’s in Encinitas, which will provide free snowboard rentals for the weekend, and Price Club, which committed free food for the kids.

Sequenom Inc., a San Diego-based biotechnology firm, gave $500. Biotech consultant groups Biostrategies gave $1,000 and Richieri & Associates gave $500.

It’s all about passion, said Sams about his philanthropic work.

“I have a passion for skiing and snowboarding and it’s been a major part of my relationship with my son,” Sams said. “We’ve skied together since Kellen was 4 and I saw what it’s created for us.”

Kellen is 17 now, and the father-and-son team still enjoys skiing together.

Sams founded Youth Sports Mentoring Organization in November 1998 to help San Diego teens escape their drug and crime-invested neighborhoods and experience the thrill and beauty of rushing down white mountain peaks.

The selected teens ages 13 through 16 all visit the Youth Education Town Center in Golden Hill. They have been selected by center representatives, the Sports Mentoring Group and the San Diego Youth and Community Services staff, Sams said.

Each teen has accomplished a major task, such as boosted his or her grades in school, stayed out of trouble with the law or tested negative for drugs, Sams said.

For many of them, the trip will be an eye-opener, Sams said, based on the positive outcome of last year’s trip to Mammoth.

“It changes their view of the world,” he said. “Many of them fell in love with the activity and (realized) if they want to do this, they have to make money and get a job.”

Among the reformed teens from last year’s trip is a high school dropout who has gone to college, and a teen on parole who has gone on to become an anti-gang lecturer.

Sams encourages other local business leaders to contribute funds so that more teens can get on the right track.


Viejas Leader an Impressive Alumnus

It may be far from Hollywood Boulevard, but Anthony Pico is making his own celebrated imprints at Grossmont College.

The chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians near Alpine received Grossmont College’s Walk of Fame award last week.

The award is presented every two years to outstanding alumni. Pico, who has been chairman of the Viejas band for 18 years, attended Grossmont College from 1963 to 1976.

He has helped bring prosperity and sovereignty to his tribe, which now owns a successful casino, outlet center, two RV parks, a television station and a bank. The tribe also has a partnership with Commodore Cruise Lines to operate one-day gambling cruises between San Diego and Rosarito Beach in Baja.

“Grossmont College is a resource for people to pursue their dreams and goals. It’s a place for individuals to develop leadership skills and find the confidence to become a leader,” said Ted Martinez Jr., the college’s president. “Chairman Pico is such an example. We’re pleased to add his name to our Walk of Fame for his outstanding achievements.”

Pico credits Grossmont College for giving him the skills necessary to succeed.

“California’s community colleges are the safety net for those who cannot, for one reason or another, afford to attend a university or four-year college after high school,” he said. “How fortunate we are to have this great gift right in our own back yard. I still have a personal dream that I pursued at Grossmont College to go into the textile business.”

Pico hopes other Native Americans will follow their education and career dreams.

“I take great pride in the fact I am the first Native American to have a footprint recorded in this place of learning. I know I will not be the last. It’s a new day for Indians. New paths have been forged.”


Comeback for Ballplayers

BY MIKE ALLEN

Dennis Biddle was just 17 in 1953 when he won a game against a pitcher who once beat the immortal Satchel Paige.

“After that game, I became known as ‘The Man who beat The Man who beat The Man,’ because everyone called Satchel ‘The Man,'” he said from his home in Milwaukee.

Biddle, along with seven other players from baseball’s Negro Leagues, will be appearing at the Del Mar Antique Show from April 21 to 23 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Like many of his fellow players in the league that existed from 1920 to 1963, Biddle had a dream of one day playing in the Major League. Though he never actually pitched a game, he takes pride in the fact that he was good enough to have his contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs, and would have played but for a rotten piece of luck.

“I was a non-roster player for the Cubs, but on the first day of spring training I broke my leg,” said the 64-year-old retired social worker. “It never healed correctly, and I had to go out and find some other line of work.”

Of course, most baseball fans know of Jackie Robinson as probably the most famous Negro League player for his breaking the color barrier in 1945 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yet other Major League stars that first began their careers in the Negro League include Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Don Newcomb, Monte Ervin, Larry Doby and Elston Howard.

“Jackie Robinson was not the best player in the league. There were a lot of players better than him,” Biddle said.

“He was signed because (Dodgers general manager) Branch Rickey knew he was the one who was capable of doing what he did,” he said, referring to the taunting and racist actions the late Robinson endured.

As for his experience having to play in the mostly segregated South in smaller minor league parks, Biddle only recalls the good times. “I was a 17-year-old kid then, and doing something that I loved. But when I saw the older fellas, and looked into their eyes, I could tell they didn’t think it was fun.”

Today, only about 250 players from the league are alive, many of them with serious money problems. Part of the proceeds from the sale of Negro League memorabilia will go toward a fund to help less-fortunate players, Biddle said.

Antique show promoter Michael Grimes said he got the idea of bringing in the players from another promoter. Along with the Negro League players, four of whom reside in the San Diego area, the show will also host two former members of the women’s professional league that ran for a couple of years during World War II, and was made famous by the film, “A League of Their Own.”

Admission to the fair is $6, but half-price admission is available by tapping into the show’s Web site at (www.calendarshows.com).


Clothing Drive Benefits Nonprofit

BY ARTHUR S. GRUPE

Staff Writer

Golden Eagle Insurance Corp. recently sponsored a clothing drive at its Downtown headquarters to help unemployed people obtain business attire for job interviews.

Second Chance/Strive, a nonprofit organization that assists unemployed individuals, was the recipient of the clothing, shoes and accessories that were collected, said George Tye, a Golden Eagle spokesman.

Neighboring businesses in Downtown and their employees were encouraged to donate clothing to the drive.

“We supported Second Chance’s Adopt-a-Block campaign where they solicit Downtown businesses and their employees to paint and fix up older residential buildings,” Tye said. “We had about 180 employees turn out for that event last October and this is just a continuation of our close relationship with the organization.”

The drive was held in late March, with donations being accepted during business hours at Golden Eagle Plaza. Five refrigerator-size boxes of high-quality clothing were delivered to the charity at the end of the drive, Tye said.

“Many of our employees saw this as a wonderful opportunity to do some spring cleaning in their closets while helping a great organization at the same time,” said Suzanne O’Kane, Golden Eagle’s coordinator for the drive. “By concentrating our efforts on professional clothing only and by advertising the drive to our Downtown neighbors, we were able to contribute a substantial amount of usable clothing to Strive.”

Tye said the company has a community relations committee made up of employees. They select community organizations to receive grants.

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