Athletes First, a Newport Beach sports agency that represents more than 80 athletes and coaches, partnered with Orangewood Children’s Foundation and its PALS auxiliary again this year and hosted its annual two-day fundraiser, “The Athletes First Classic.”The gala event was held at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach in Dana Point on March 2, with a golf tournament the following day. Major sponsors included Acra Aerospace, Argyros Family Foundation, Bob and Suzy Barth, Lennar Charitable Housing Foundation, St. Regis Monarch Beach, and Starkey Hearing Foundation. Athletes attending the weekend events included 2011 Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers (G.B. Packers), USC alum Matt Leinart (Houston Texans), Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller (Denver Broncos), Scotty McKnight (NY Jets) with girlfriend actress Hayden Panettiere, and 18 young players represented by Athletes First going into the 2012 draft including Melvin Ingram of South Carolina who is expected to be taken in the first round. The gala and golf event are expected to raise approximately $600,000 for Orangewood Children’s Foundation’s scholarship program for former foster teens in Orange County.Over 800 people gathered at the gala on Friday night. The dinner program included a testimonial by former foster youth Ashley Fortini. Ashley began her speech by saying, “My life is not a sob story; it is a miracle. It is filled with great sadness, I have felt immense loss but I feel that this darkness has made my happiness a dearer and brighter treasure to me. Being trapped and then freed makes freedom all the more wonderful and life that much more exciting.” She went on to describe her early childhood years spent with a drug-addicted mother and early teen years with her abusive father. Thanks to the support and resources of Orangewood Children’s Foundation, today Ashley is a senior at CSUF who will be graduating in May. She concluded by telling the audience, “Thank you for your generosity, you have changed my future.” Moved by Ashley’s story, the audience donated over $200,000 to Orangewood’s scholarship fund.
The culmination of the evening was the presentation of the 2012 Golden Heart Award to Vizio CEO William Wang and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. The award is given annually to two honorees, one an athlete who has been a positive role model and has made contributions off the field, and the other a local business leader who has exhibited leadership in doing good works and benefiting humanity. “Golden Heart honorees back up their success with generosity,” said Athletes First C.E.O. and Orangewood board member David Dunn.
After receiving the Golden Heart award from presenter and friend Wing Lam, Wang thanked the audience and concluded his comments by donated 10 Vizio all-in-one desktop computers to Orangewood for their youth. Harbaugh received his award by his parents, Jack and Jackie. At the end of his remarks, he offered one surprise live auction item – a 49ers away game experience which sold for $45,000 to Mike Yurkovich and Chad Yagle. The item offered the experience of joining the team on the team bus and airplane to and from the game, staying at the same hotel as the players, and enjoying the game up close from the sidelines.
“This was a great opportunity for our clients to come together for a great cause,” said Athletes First CEO David Dunn. “I applaud them for taking time out of their extremely busy schedules to help the kids of Orangewood, and to help honor Jim Harbaugh and William Wang.”
Orangewood Chief Executive Officer Cal Winslow said, “We are honored to continue our partnership with David Dunn and the whole Athletes First organization, and we’re delighted to be the beneficiary of this year’s Classic.”
Picture of Brady Bunte with Drew Bledsoe and John Elway