Soboba Foundation tees off for charities

Local nonprofits benefit from golf tournament

Photos courtesy of Rodrigo Peña
Soboba Foundation members from left, Geneva Mojado, Sally Ortiz, Isaiah Vivanco, Patrick Placencia and Dondi Silvas.

■ By Mike Hiles / Columnist

When more than 215 golfers approached the links at The Country Club at Soboba Springs on Friday, April 7, they weren’t there to just play a round of golf. They were supporting seven local nonprofits chosen by the Soboba Foundation to receive $10,000 each to fund projects that will, in various ways, improve the community.
The fifth annual Soboba Foundation & Soboba Casino Charity Golf Tournament was a tremendous success thanks to more than 100 volunteers that helped keep things moving along and a high-energy raffle and live auction at the end of the day. “We could not have done this without the support of the tribe, staff, community, sponsors and volunteers,” said Isaiah Vivanco, Soboba tribal vice chairman and Soboba Foundation board member. “We are thankful for an increase in involvement over the past few years and for all those that help provide us this great opportunity to give back to the community.”

San Jacinto Unified School District was one of seven nonprofits that benefited from the annual golf tournament at Soboba Springs. From left, Sally Ortiz, Isaiah Vivanco, Dondi Silvas, Geneva Mojado, SJUSD Superintendent Diane Perez and Patrick Placencia.

The nonprofits that benefited from the tournament were Boxing for Christ, Community Pantry, EXCEED, Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, San Jacinto Unified School District, Valley Queen’s Scholarship Foundation and V.I.P. Tots. Soboba Foundation President Sally Ortiz thoroughly enjoyed her day on the course.
“The weather really cooperated and the tournament felt much more relaxed this year,” she said. “As we learn ways to improve, we grow and we continue to do better.”
Soboba Foundation Vice President Geneva Mojado said the event is growing each year with more participants than there is space for. She is hopeful that the replacement casino and venue will allow them to host a two-day long tournament, helping even more area nonprofits. “The greens are amazing this year,” she said. “All the players were very impressed with the course.”
Sonia Ramos, founder and CEO of Boxing for Christ, said more than 350 boys and girls have been through the program since it began about five years ago. The golf tournament proceeds will allow the organization to upgrade its boxing equipment and help with competition fees.
“Right now, we have a homemade boxing ring that the coaches and students put together so we will be able to purchase a ring now,” Ramos said.
She said that thanks to Soboba, the students will be going to June’s national competition in Oxnard for the first time, which will allow their boxers to start getting ranked nationally.
Community Pantry’s executive director, Jim Lineberger, plans to fund emergency services for seniors and single mothers with the Soboba Foundation donation.
“We are glad and blessed to be a recipient,” he said. “The program will assist both low income and newly homeless as long as this assistance will help them be stable from that point on. We hope to assist 25 families, providing rental and utility assistance.”
EXCEED, which has provided services and advocacy for adults with developmental disabilities since 1979, sought funding to upgrade the technology services used to manage each case. A dozen staff members were among the tournament day’s volunteers.

A Cahuilla coiled basket, handwoven by Steven Estrada, was the most popular item – and with a $5,000 winning bid, the highest bid item ever – at the live auction that took place after the fifth annual Soboba Foundation & Soboba Casino Charity Golf Tournament on April 7.

“We would not be able to make this upgrade without the Soboba Foundation’s help,” said Sandra Aldridge, executive assistant. “Most of our funding comes from the state, and service rates have not increased for many years so we must continually look for funding opportunities for items such as this.”
Joe Schnake, executive director of the Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, said more than 375 children will benefit from the youth scholarships that will be funded through the charity golf tournament.
“The financial support of the Soboba Foundation is a major player in helping the children of our valley by providing these scholarships,” he said. “I understand that there are numerous nonprofits out there that are in dire need of financial help so I was surprised, pleased and honored that the Soboba Foundation chose us to be a beneficiary.”
San Jacinto Unified School District will be implementing a high school program with the funds it receives. Superintendent Diane Perez said the Students United for Change program is a student-led movement aimed at creating a compassionate climate, free of fear, where every student feels connected and knows they belong. “The board of trustees took action to declare San Jacinto Unified a Safe Haven, but the students wanted the message to reach a broader audience,” Perez said.
Executive Director Miguel Sarasa was happy to see the Valley Queen’s Scholarship Foundation chosen as a recipient saying the funds will be used to present a San Jacinto Valley Youth Fest in September. “It will focus on the valley’s youth-oriented businesses and services,” he said. “Our foundation is committed to empowering youth to excel in higher education goals and community service so this event will help bring more awareness that we are not just a beauty pageant.”
V.I.P. Tots has wanted to incorporate a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) themed playground at its Hemet location but didn’t have the funding. Thanks to the Soboba Foundation’s annual golf tournament, they will be able to start it soon, according to Executive Director Karen Calvillo. Serving children since 1979, V.I.P. Tots knows this enhancement will promote more creative and social-emotional skills opportunities. “The improvements will help bring the curriculum from inside the classroom to outside by having equipment that will further promote STEM and literacy,” said Calvillo.

NFL star, Christian “The Nigerian Nightmare” Okoye, gives autographed footballs to Soboba Tribal Vice Chairman and Soboba Foundation board member Isaiah Vivanco to be auctioned off at the fifth annual charity golf tournament on April 7.

Patrick Placencia, the foundation’s treasurer, said it was a beautiful day of golf for a great cause. “It’s so nice to see such involvement from all the volunteers and everyone who contributed,” he said. “You can tell by the big turnout and the many great items provided for auction that the tournament’s success results from all of the terrific support.”
Auction items fetched about $10,000, including autographed football helmets and jerseys from Oakland Raiders’ Bo Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles’ Vince Papale and San Francisco 49ers’ Jerry Rice. An autographed machete from Danny Trejo (“Danny Trejo as Machete”) and a signed black leather motorcycle jacket and “Sons of Anarchy” poster from Ryan Hurst were among the most popular items.
But the piece de resistance was a beautiful basket handwoven by Steven Estrada, tribal chairman of the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians. He spent more than 300 hours creating the Cahuilla coiled basket with a whirlwind design with butterflies. It is made from natural juncus with dyed juncus and sumac for the design elements.
Former Soboba Tribal Chairwoman Rosemary Morillo and Ortiz engaged in a spirited bidding war that soon included bids by Vivanco, who jumped in to add to the pot. Eventually, an anonymous bidder stepped in and took the prize for $5,000, which made this the highest bid for any auction item.

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