A Night of Gratitude: The 2nd Annual Game Changer Awards in San Diego

“He struck a chord with me because he cared about me first and foremost as a person,” shared Shannon MacMillan, World Cup Champion and Olympic Medalist, about her collegiate and Olympic coach, Clive Charles. “He told me it’s okay to be young, female and powerful.” Strong statements of gratitude like Shannon’s were shared on stage at the 2nd Annual San Diego Game Changer Awards.

Professional athletes, such as Austin Hedges, catcher for the Padres, thanked the coaches who helped guide them to extraordinary success and transformation. “I wouldn’t be here without Joe [DeMarco, President and Chief Operations Officer of Elite Baseball], without all of the coaches that have helped me get to where I am today,” said Austin. “These coaches are not just someone that inspires you on the field, but off the field as well.”

Nick Hardwick, former Pro Bowl Center for the San Diego Chargers honored his high school wrestling Coach Royce Deckard who imparted that, “It was about learning that everything you set your mind to, you can achieve…” Scott Tinley, 2-time Ironman World Champion and author, honored Gene Lamke, Professor Emeritus at San Diego State. According to Gene, “We need to give the kids in under-resourced communities in San Diego access to sports, access to leadership, and teamwork. Coaching Corps, I commend you and am committed to helping you achieve your mission.”

A celebratory moment of each Game Changer Awards is to designate the honor of Coach of the Year to an exceptional volunteer Coaching Corps coach. The award is given each year to a coach who embodies extraordinary dedication and commitment to being a trusted and consistent role model for the kids they coach. This year’s San Diego Coach of the Year award went to Laura Marquez. Laura traveled 1.5 hours each way for four years to coach young kids at La Maestra Generation (a community center) in City Heights, San Diego. When we asked Isaac Antunez, age 10, what he thinks about Coach Laura, he shared, “When we didn’t have a coach, we played by the wrong rules. After Coach Laura began to coach us, I learned where to go, what to do and the right way to play. Most important, we learned teamwork.”

The evening wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our event committee, All-Star sponsor, the Padres, and the many other sponsors and supporters who believe that all kids, no matter their income or zip code, deserve a caring coach.

With the Game Changer Awards, we’re changing the game for kids in low-income communities across the country.

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