Each day the offices of the Silicon Valley Conference for Community & Justice receive numerous visitors, though it’s pretty rare when a large shark comes in with a large check. But that is exactly what happened when The Sharks Foundation presented a $20,000 check to the Silicon Valley Conference for Community & Justice on Wednesday, May 3 to help support their Camp Everytown program.
Receiving the check on behalf of the organization was SVCCJ’s President Bart Charlow and Clarissa Abram Moore, Program Coordinator of Camp Everytown. Along with S.J. Sharkie, check presenters included Rob Jaynes, Director of Fan Development & The Sharks Foundation; Laura Johnston, Sharks Foundation Manager; Charlie Faas, Sharks Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer; as well as Sharks Foundation Board Members Heather Hunter and Tony Khing.
“Camp Everytown is teaching Santa Clara County’s young people to own up to the stereotypes and judgments they have and change those things into respect and appreciation. We are honored to assist in their efforts,” said Johnston.
The program, under its old name of Camp Anytown USA, has been in existence continuously for 50 years and each year more the 1,300 students in Silicon Valley participate. It is an intensive 4-day/3-night residential retreat for high school youth that combines hands on activities, discussion sessions and self-reflection in an attempt to turn bias (be it conscious or otherwise) into respect and understanding. The end results have the added benefit of also encouraging non-violence in our local communities. But if you think this is your standard teambuilding exercise, think again.
“This is not a simple summer camp, diversity awareness training, or ropes course,” said Charlow, “It's an intensive and gut level redirection of prejudice into appreciation, with methods that have been honed continuously over its 50 year history. We call it visceral learning.”
Each Camp Everytown retreat focuses on one or two high schools. Within each session, the participants span the gamut of races, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds and other important factors. Student delegates are selected who are viewed as peer leaders in their circles, to help create a critical mass of change agents within each high school community. Some student delegates are on a track of traditional high achievement; other delegates exercise leadership in gang activities and anti-social behaviors. Parents, school and law enforcement personnel also participate in the process so that the experience doesn’t just end on the last day of the retreat.
“The teachers and parents and police liaisons who go to camp with them all create a matrix of support back at school for one another. Many of our schools have year-round Everytown Clubs, or incorporate our alumni into their existing campus diversity and leadership groups,” Charlow noted, “From this foundation of skills, confidence, and collaboration they work on changing their schools and neighborhoods.”
For those Sharks fans who may wish to assist Camp Everytown, there are three ways to become involved:
- Become a Camp volunteer. Nearly 250 adult volunteers are needed each year. The experience requires a criminal background check, 4 days and nights per camp, and some additional pre-training.
- Bring Camp Everytown to your school (or the college & adult version, Leadership Today, to your college or workplace).
- Support the program financially. Donations are welcomed at any level from individuals, organizations, companies or foundations.
For more information on the Camp Everytown program or to volunteer, please visit SVCCJ’s website at: www.svccj.org.