Kerr's Cause

The Ongoing Efforts of the Warriors Community Foundation

by Brian Witt

When Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Golden State Warriors, they had three main goals. First, raise a championship banner inside Oracle Arena. Second, establish a well-run organization by hiring the best people. And third, make a significant and lasting impact on the Bay Area community.

Well, let's see. The Warriors have won two of the last three NBA championships, and just raised their 2017 NBA Championship banner to the rafters of Oracle Arena on Opening Night. That's one check mark.

Over the last several years, the Warriors organization has been recognized frequently for their achievements both on and off the court. On the basketball side, Head Coach Steve Kerr has added one NBA Coach of the Year award to his resume, while President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers has added two NBA Executive of the Year awards to his. On the business side, Golden State was named the Sports Business Journal's Team of the Year in both 2014 and 2016. That's two.

That third box to check is a little different, though. A lasting impact on the community is not something that can be accomplished prior to tipoff or awarded at season's end. It takes constant attention and effort, and requires a multi-faceted approach. After all, the scope of ways in which the Warriors can serve the Bay Area is a broad one. So, that's why they created the Warriors Community Foundation in 2012 to assist local youth.

"Making a significant impact in the lives of Bay Area youth is the main mission of the Warriors Community Foundation," said Warriors Vice President of Community Relations and Community Foundation Executive Director Joanne Pasternack. "We believe supporting efforts to improve resources and access for those without the opportunities to do so is how we can make a lasting impact in lives of youth throughout the Bay Area."

Last Friday, the Warriors Community Foundation put its money where its mouth is, yet again. The Foundation awarded $1.2 million in grants to 49 local organizations working to improve educational equity in Alameda and San Francisco Counties, including flagship grants to the Oakland and San Francisco Unified School Districts. Since its founding in 2012, the Warriors Community Foundation has now delivered over $8.9 million in impact to support education and youth development in the Bay Area.

The grants from this most recent contribution will support a range of programs and organizations, including investments in early childhood development, elementary literacy, middle schools, STEM, and college access and persistence. One of those programs is the East Bay College Fund, a local institution that "helps resilient public school students, under–represented in higher education, access and succeed in college, expanding their life opportunities." It's a program with which Kerr has developed his own special, lasting bond.

"I met the East Bay College Fund people last year on a similar night, where they had some guests in town," Kerr said prior to the Warriors' game that Sunday. "I was just blown away by what they're doing, just in terms of fundraising but also, mentoring kids in the Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay. Sending them to college, providing mentoring, counseling, it's a great program, so it's become kind of my personal charity through the Warriors Foundation."

Since last season, Kerr has donated all of the proceeds from his various speaking engagements to a scholarship through the East Bay College Fund, which he established in honor of his father, Dr. Malcolm Kerr. Thanks to Kerr's donations – which total over $600,000 to-date – 20 students have been able to attend college.

"I'm really pleased to be able to contribute," Kerr continued, "and thrilled that the Warriors Community Foundation is directly involved."

Kerr's father was a college professor, so his innate connection to the spirit of the fund is obvious. But when asked what inspired him to get involved with the East Bay College Fund, specifically, Kerr explained it had everything to do with how the Fund assists youth beyond simply the financial support.

"The mentoring part was really I think the key," Kerr revealed. "It's one thing to donate money, which is a huge part of it, but to contribute the mentoring, and the advice and the moral support is a huge part of what young people need when they're going off to college. So, that's what attracted me I think."

Michelle Hernandez, Kamossi Brooks and Johann Romo – current students at University of California Berkeley, California State University East Bay and San Francisco State University – are three of the local youth that have directly benefitted from Kerr's scholarship, and they were his special guests at Sunday's game. The students got a front row seat to Golden State's pregame shootaround session and met their benefactor for the very first time at a postgame meet-and-greet.

"I never thought that I would actually meet him, or be so close to the court," said a smiling Hernandez.

As Kerr and the East Bay College Fund students said their goodbyes, the program's Executive Director Diane Dodge thanked him for his ongoing contributions, and Kerr reciprocated his enjoyment at the overall success of the program. A future meeting between Kerr and the entirety of his beneficiaries – who now study at collegiate institutions across the country – is currently in the works.

Golden State may have lost Sunday's game, but on the whole, the night was a big-time success. The Warriors remain committed to keeping that third box checked, and Kerr's ongoing relationship with the East Bay College Fund is another strong step in that direction.