LA84 Foundation: A Driving Force for Youth Sports Organizations of Los Angeles
PHOTO COURTESY OF LA84 FOUNDATION
Anyone who knows me knows that if you are talking about giving back to our youth, you have my undivided attention. Imagine my excitement when finding out I get to cover one of the most influential organizations in the world.
LA84 Foundation is a nationally recognized platform supporting youth sports programs and public education. Their primary goal is to advocate for the critical role that sports participation plays in youth development.
Starting in 1985, after being created with a share of the 1984 Olympic Games surplus, LA84 Foundation set the tone as a grant-making and educational foundation, supporting hundreds of nonprofit youth sports organizations throughout Southern California. Since their inception, they've changed countless lives annually by offering training for coaches, hosting conferences, and maintaining an extensive Olympic and sports library for all their participants.
"The lack of equal access for all kids to play is a crisis hiding in plain sight.”
Led by Debra Duncan (Board Chair) and Renata Simril (President & CEO), LA84 Foundation has established some incredible partnerships and programs over the years. One of the most intriguing is the Play Equity Movement. Established in 2014, the Play Equity Movement is centered around the basis of social justice, making sure that all children have fair access to sports regardless of race, gender, zip code, or socioeconomic status. In Simril's words, “The lack of equal access for all kids to play is a crisis hiding in plain sight.”
I know this story well as a former youth sports player who couldn't even afford a pair of shoes to play my first year in junior high; which is one reasons why my UNIFY organization started our “Kids in Cleats” campaign a few years ago. However, LA84 Foundation has taken this same philosophy to plateaus few could imagine. Their partnership with the LA Super Bowl LVI Host Committee and the “Champions Live Here” legacy program highlights 56 of Los Angeles' heroic organizations that do so much without ever receiving the proper recognition for their contributions.
In addition to the Super Bowl Legacy Program, LA84 has also partnered with The Alliance, a collaboration between 11 professional sports organizations that include the Chargers and the Rams. The Alliance came together in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the global protest that followed.
When hearing Simril speak at SoFi Stadium in March about their journey, I immediately got goose bumps as I am living proof that with a bit of support, the sport a kid chooses to play can turn into a lifetime of accomplishments with the proper foundation. I'm not sure if it was her background as an army military policeman or just the natural passion that exists in someone who has spent a lifetime serving the community, but I felt like I could accomplish anything after hearing Simril speak.
I've been around some fantastic leaders but let's take a quick look at some of the amazing work Mrs. Simril has accomplished for the City of Los Angeles. Simril has served as the Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Publisher of the Los Angeles Times, overseeing staff operations and special projects. She spent three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers as Senior Vice President of External Affairs, where she was responsible for restoring the Dodgers brand and Dodgers Foundation.
She was also Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Housing for the Hahn Administration, where she worked to expand rental and affordable housing in Los Angeles. Still, one of the most impressive titles of all may have been her time spent as Development Deputy to Los Angeles Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. She worked to help rebuild communities in South Los Angeles after the riots in 1992.
We often wonder how organizations like the LA84 Foundation get their start. When you have the right people in the right places, great things tend to happen. I can say wholeheartedly that Play Equity Movement is a great thing. Without organizations like these and people like Simril, so many lives go unnoticed without an equal opportunity to prove their worth to a world that needs as much change as it can get.
Daily, we are reminded that we are a society that needs an occasional reality check. LA84 Foundation has taken it upon themselves and the greater Los Angeles community to ensure that reality checks are not the only kind of checks making their way to inner cities to instill change. It takes dedication, commitment, and sacrifice to do so. I'm honored to highlight some of the unsung heroes who have spent decades making dreams come true for thousands of youth who remind me so much of myself.
With the help of the Super Bowl LVI Legacy program, the “Champions Live Here” program, the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, the LA84 Foundation, and the Play Equity Fund, expect great things to come in the near future. Special thanks to Ricky Zeller and Yolanda Gillette for assisting us with learning more about all the great work they do alongside CEO Renata Simril and the rest of their incredible staff at the LA84 Foundation.
To know that there are like-minded people with a passion for changing lives gives me the strength and energy to do all I can to follow in their footsteps. We are grateful to share the LA84 Foundation story with the world, as you have indeed shown us what innovation looks like by continuing to make sure that the “have nots” gain a little bit of ground on those who have it all. We cannot wait to see you all featured at halftime of Super Bowl LVI at the jewel of Inglewood, SoFi Stadium. Your devotion to the city of Los Angeles and the youth of Southern California will be remembered and praised for decades to come, and great things tend to happen when, and if, you ever need Suite Life SoCal, we are one phone call away.