Charity fundraisers in Sonoma County can typically fall into the same pattern. There are wine auctions and beer festivals. The large bicycle races. And the 5Ks and 10Ks galore.
While those types of events aid good causes, David Barnett wanted to do something for the county’s estimated 450 foster children and young adults without making the fundraising effort seem like a chore or duty — or like a lot of others held in the area.
“I was just kind of fed up with the dinners and doing a raffle,” said Barnett, owner of Brush Salon in Healdsburg.
A fan of British soccer, Barnett decided last year during the World Cup that a tournament featuring the world’s most popular sport would make the perfect fundraising event — especially given the strong interest in soccer in Sonoma County, where adults of all ages play in dozens of leagues.
So last year, Barnett and hospitality veteran Elizabeth Hawkins organized the inaugural Crush Cup, a benefit for the local Voices program, which helps young people ages 16 to 24 who are homeless or coming out of foster care.
The co-ed tournament last year raised $25,000 to help three young adults attend Lytle’s Beauty College in Santa Rosa. This year’s tournament, held Sunday at Healdsburg Recreation Park, is expected to bring in $30,000 for academic and vocational scholarships.
The atmosphere was more casual than that of a Major League Soccer game, with the half-size fields and games only lasting for 30 minutes. Still, there were a few hard tackles and shots that whizzed into the grandstand.
“A lot of the league players wanted to play something off-season, so it worked out great,” said Barnett, who on Sunday played for the winning team, the Scissor Kicks.
Eight teams fought it out on the pitch Sunday, and the event has proven so popular that three squads were turned away this year, Hawkins said. Organizers are considering holding a two-day tournament next year to accommodate more teams.
Teams paid $1,200 each to play in Sunday’s tournament. In most cases, the entry fee was underwritten by sponsoring businesses.
Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services, Fetzer Vineyards and El Farolito restaurant were among this year’s team sponsors, and other sponsors including Lytle’s Beauty College and Sonic.net also donated money, Barnett said.
The salon owner said he got involved with the Voices program after spending time cutting hair for children at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.
“The more I learned about the foster children, the more I realized once they graduate out of the system, there is very little support for them,” he said.
Those ages 18 to 21 can participate in an extended foster-care system that provides financial support for them while they pursue education and training to become self-sufficient, said Amber Twitchell, program director for Voices.
“The older young people have a really hard time with the transition. They now can stay in the system until 21. But so many people’s kids don’t leave the family until 21. It’s hard to go to school, pay for housing and have a job and do all those things, especially when you really didn’t have a chance to develop all those basic life skills,” Twitchell said.
The cost of tuition for higher education can be steep for those young adults, especially those who want to attend a vocational or technical college, she said. The average foster child will attend four different high schools, she said, making it difficult for them to be ready for college by age 18.
Anthony Northern, 20, benefited from last year’s Crush Cup because the proceeds helped pay some of the cost for him to attend Lytle’s Beauty College, where tuition to pursue a cosmetology license is almost $23,000. Barnett has taken an interest in mentoring Northern to provide crucial work experience.
“I come from a really poor family and a poor background,” said Northern, who is in the extended foster-care system. “Right after you graduate (high school), you get handed a $300 check as an exit package and you are sent off into the world . . . you’re basically told to create a life for yourself.”
Northern said he would like to gain enough experience so he could eventually work internationally, such as on cruise ships, or in the film or television business in Los Angeles.
“It helped me kind of create a path for myself,” Northern said of the scholarship aid.
“If I didn’t have this money, there wouldn’t be much of a future; just work in retail, struggling.”