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Opinion

The Crowd: Stars & Stripes Tournament in Cabo benefits charities on both sides of the border

Bret Michaels
Singer Bret Michaels of Poison performed at the annual Stars & Stripes Tournament for charity in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
(Photo by David Nash)

This is a story about combining a dream mini-vacation with social conscience. Every summer since 1997, the Stars & Stripes Children’s Foundation plans a four-day celebration in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with a family event featuring golf, fishing and dining. The Stars & Stripes Tournament, as the event is called, raises money for children’s charities in both Southern California and Mexico.

This is even more than simply a story about charity, community and lifestyle, for it is also in these difficult times surrounding the immigration issues at the southern border, a story about diplomacy and cooperation on the basic human level between American and Mexican citizens, not governments.

The foundation name, for those not familiar, is misleading. Of course you would think it refers to the American flag. Indeed, it does in spirit, but “Stars” refer to the children helped through the charitable fundraising and “Stripes” refer to the stripes on marlin caught in Cabo.

The concept began as the brainchild of Dick Gebhard, who serves as the board chairman for the Stars & Stripes Children’s Foundation. Gebhard founded Pinnacle Land Management and created a board known as The Knights, which is made up of successful members of the Orange County business community.

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Among them are Tim Ryan, president and chief executive of the Honda Center; Al Baldwin, CEO and chairman of Baldwin & Sons; Larry Kirkenslager, senior vice president for SASCO Electric Inc.; Charles Ruck, partner, Latham & Watkins; Zlatko Zadro; president of Zadro Products; Erik Anderson, president of Anderson Financial; and Rick Hausman, an executive at Rudolph and Sletten.

With their combined influence, The Knights have rallied the community for 23 years, raising more than $33 million for youth charities. This past summer’s take totaled more than $3.7 million from some 600 travelers who joined the four-day expedition to Cabo.

Where does the money go? Nonprofit youth charities receiving financial assistance from Stars & Stripes include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire. Big Brothers Big Sisters is close to the heart of Gebhard, as the idea for Stars & Stripes came to him when he was a board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County.

“I wanted to create a fundraiser unlike any other combining my love of fishing, golf and music,” he said.

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Sloane Keane, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters said, “The impact of the Stars & Stripes tournament in Cabo is tremendous, enabling us to expand our programs and provide thousands of youth with mentorship to help them reach their full potential.”

Also receiving grants are The Orangewood Foundation, Miracles For Kids, South Bay Community Services, Tilly’s Life Center and Building Baja’s Future, which is a nonprofit organization based in Mexico that is committed to “helping educate bright ambitious teenagers determined to overcome limited opportunities ...”

Honorary charities recognized at the 2019 event were the Halo For Freedom Warrior Foundation and the PLASTICOS Foundation.

For the 22nd year in a row, SASCO Electric Inc. has underwritten the tournament as its title sponsor. Joining SASCO were Ten-X Commercial and the Fruchbom family.

The event, which was produced by Kapture Vision, kicked off with a VIP party headlined by 2019 Academy of Country Music award winner Chris Janson and private performances on the beach featuring the Downtown Band and multi-platinum recording artist Bret Michaels of Poison.

The days in Cabo were filled with competitive golf and fishing topped off by fabulous gourmet Mexican dinners under the stars. The host hotel for the four-day Mexican vacation with a cause was the Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort.

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