NovatoSpirit GIVES THANKS
Newsletter - Fall 2018
Here in Marin
Here’s a quick snapshot of how families are faring around the county:
46,000 Marin residents are currently living in poverty.
About 50% of all Latino and African-American residents and 14% of Anglo residents do not have enough to eat every day
Those most challenged by food shortages are children and seniors.
These alarming facts were presented recently at a seminar hosted by First 5 Marin Children and Families Commission. Several effective nonprofits are currently working together to help more families gain access to nourishing food, including the Marin County Health and Human Services Department. Staff there have created a new app called Food Now Marin, which shows people where they can get food nearest to their zip code. Those interested in getting this free app for any type of cell phone, designed for English and Spanish speakers, can visit the Mobile Gallery section located on the homepage of the county’s website: www.marincounty.org Please share this information widely.
It’s important to provide nourishment and strength, not only for human beings, but also for organizations like NovatoSpirit. Our volunteer Board Members Suzanne Daggert, CPA and Alison Moore, RN have worked all year to create a plan to fortify our service to vulnerable children well into the future.
The healing Power of dance
You may not believe it, but this young lady was unable to walk without pain as a child. But now, she can bend, stretch and move painlessly, she says, due to the many years she spent dancing with NovatoSpirit.
“When I was young, it was hard, because I’d see all these kids running and I couldn’t do it, “ she recalled. “I had scoliosis in my back and I had no flexibility. So I couldn’t do any sports.”
When she was nine, her physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente referred her to our program at Love2Dance in downtown Novato. Initially, the steps triggered a twinge in her back, but she was determined to improve. Her dedication and optimism paid off, and now she’s a teacher’s assistant, performing ballet folklorico around the North Bay Area.
“My parents and I are very grateful with the opportunity that NovatoSpirit gave me, because through dance I became an independent, strong and confident teenager,” she said. “Now I am 16 years old, and I am a junior at San Marin High. I am a peer health promoter at the Novato Teen Clinic at Marin Community Clinics. In the future, I will pursue a career as an occupational therapist, and I hope one day I can contribute to an organization like NovatoSpirit, to help other kids the way I was helped.”
Our newest dancer is an 8-year-old girl, who lives in a residential center for homeless families. When applying to NovatoSpirit, she wrote, “Dance will be great for me, because it keeps my soul happy. I am very active and it will keep me focused. And dance will help me not think about how different I am.”
She’s been with us for a month, and her mother said, “She hasn’t missed any dance lessons and she is still excited. Last week I bought her jazz shoes. She was so excited that she puts them on all the time, even to go to the mall!”
Movement and Mentorship - Healing Kids Through Sport
Sports can have a therapeutic impact on children, given the right coaches and conditions, and this is the subject of my newest book, Movement and Mentorship, Healing Kids through Sports, now available on Amazon, along with the Spanish version, titled Movimiento y Mentoría. (The French version will be published soon.)
The book presents heartfelt testimonials from our kids about their athletic mentors, who have helped them become hopeful and resilient, along with data from therapists and neurophysiologists showing that, indeed, sports can improve the health of children.
And some of these children grow up to become outstanding adults, such as Jose Varela, the Marin County Public Defender. After reading Movement and Mentorship, he shared a personal story, “When applying to law school, I was interviewed by student groups and admission counselors who wanted to know how a kid from a single-mother home in a low economic setting was able to make his way to a top tier law school.”
Jose continued, “They were surprised when I spontaneously said, ‘I played football.’ A panel member wondered if I was being facetious. When I explained that in my home town of Martinez, football coaches and parent counselors guided me to sport instead of what some of my friends were doing, selling drugs and so forth, they understood that sport was my entryway to mentoring. If it wasn’t for sport, I would not be who I am.”
He added, “There are others like me out there. Thank you for helping people see the power of sport.”
Novato Police Department in the community
The NPD is helping our NovatoSpirit families in many ways, through their summer camps, educational Explorers Program, and their Community Academies for all residents here. Recently, the NPD hosted an informative Spanish-language Community Academy, which I attended along with the mother of two of our dancers. Amazingly, the NPD offers all of these valuable public programs for free.
These free programs are especially appreciated by our families, who are living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Translated into dollars, this means that a family of four here survives on about $44,000 per year.
New Board Members at Novato Spirit
Two exceptional individuals have joined our Board to help us advance: Marta Posada, Newcomer Counselor for the Novato Unified School District (NUSD), and Charles Dresow, who has maintained a criminal-defense practice in the county for more than a decade.
Marta’s a skilled school counselor with English learners and immigrant students, and she’s devoted to the NUSD youths experiencing difficult transitions at young ages. Marta immigrated to the U.S. herself as a child, and she’s bilingual. So she’s an ideal Board Member, as 85% of our students are from Spanish-speaking families from various countries. In addition, she’ll share her expertise in how to best address the needs of our kids.
Charles Dresow is a longtime participant in public service and currently serves as Board President of Alternate Defenders Inc., the governing body for the local conflict indigent defense panel. Next year he’ll be Board President of the Marin County Bar Association. Additionally, he’s volunteered as a football coach at Redwood High School. A lifelong scholar-athlete, Charles was educated at the McGeorge School of Law and Pitzer College, where he was a four-year letterman for the football team and a four-year starter on the rugby team. We appreciate his commitment to sports.
None of this would be possible without the generous support of our community.
Our deepest gratitude goes to all who give. Special thanks to recent gifts from Laurence Wollak Molinari; Peter & Ginnie Haas; Kenneth A. Berg Living Trust; Melanie & Peter Maier; Cindy Grove and Jerry Ghirardo, Ghirardo CPA; Lauren Watson Cesare; Sherrie Holmes; Margaret Gompertz; Jade Paterson; Jose Olvera; Rafael Vazquez; Rommy Smith; Maritza Luna Sanchez; Liz Huntington; Julie Huntington de Polo; Don Schinske; Robert Schinske; Soroptimist International of Novato; Rotary Club of Novato; Novato Mother’s Club; Drs. McKell Perry and Eric Tyler; Bank of America Foundation; Patrick Farley; Ronda Gotti; James R. Smith; Rowena Gonzalez; and a generous gentleman from France, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Numerous community leaders have voiced their support, including County Supervisor Judy Arnold and Aide Leslie Weber; County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni; Novato Mayor Josh Fryday; Novato City Manager Regan Candelario and Assistant City Manager Peggy Flynn; Dr. Tracey Hessel, Lead Pediatrician of the Marin Community Clinics; Jeff Hardy, Founder of Care for Peace, providing medical services in rural Burma (Myanmar); Stephanie Heckman of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which helps families affected by war and conflict and assists with refugee resettlement.
Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown of Rodef Sholom; Stan Cudia, Commander of the Novato Post of the Marin Veterans of Foreign Wars; Claire Knoles, Founder and COO of Kiosk; Sherman Frederick, Editor and Publisher of the Novato Advance; editors and staff of the Marin Independent Journal; Lyons Filmer and Susan Santiago of KWMR Radio; David Mitchell, Pulitzer-prizewinning Editor and Publisher of the Point Reyes Light during his admirable news career; and staff from the Novato Police Department (NPD).
Please consider supporting NovatoSpirit’s children. We’ve admitted a record number of kids this year, and hope to continue giving each a 5-year athletic scholarship to improve their health. Thank you for your consideration.
Wishing you and your family well this Thanksgiving,
Marian Huntington, Executive Director
NovatoSpirit Athletic Scholarships
936 7th Street, Suite B, PMB 236
Novato, CA 94945