Change for the Better: Kiwanis Clubs make fundraiser improvements in 2016


When La Jolla’s two Kiwanis Club chapters raise money for charity, they do it in a big way. Signature events that draw thousands of people and raise thousands of dollars a year for each chapter include the La Jolla Half Marathon for the La Jolla Kiwanis Club, and the San Diego Festival of the Arts for the Kiwanis Club of Torrey Pines. This year, the two chapters made changes to these key events to make them even better.

La Jolla Kiwanis Club

To accommodate construction in The Village and The Shores, the La Jolla Kiwanis Club made minor adjustments to the La Jolla Half Marathon and 5K route in 2016, but did what they could to minimize other changes to the race that brings in an average of $250,000-$300,000 a year.

“For the last 35 years, the Half Marathon has been our club’s major fundraiser. Most clubs don’t have a fundraiser nearly this magnitude,” said president Bart Calame. “We get some donations and host other events (such as the summer Pancake Breakfast and the spring Junior Olympics), but nothing compares to the race.” To test the new course in the midst of ongoing construction, in 2016, Calame ran the course a few days before the marathon to make sure there would be no hiccups.

“I used to be a long distance runner, so I wanted to make sure everything would go smoothly. My wife dropped me off at the start and I did it, and it was all good,” he said. Ironically, Calame has never run the marathon with the thousands of other annual participants.

This year’s race was also the first time the Kiwanians hosted registration and check-in at the Del Mar Hilton, closer to the starting line. The La Jolla Half Marathon starts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, follows a scenic coastal route and finishes in Scripps Park. The La Jolla Half Marathon is the second race in what is considered the Half Marathon Triple Crown Series. The La Jolla 5K offers a mostly downhill course and includes the last 3.1 miles of the Half Marathon course.

“We’re running out of ways to improve the race,” Calame laughed. The next marathon is April 23, 2017.

Proceeds from the volunteer-run event fund the grant cycle for the following year, he added, and are distributed to more than 80 charities the club supports. “The core focus of Kiwanis is children,” he said. “In addition to writing grant checks, we also host the Junior Olympics in May at La Jolla High School and have done a community Pancake Breakfast in July for more than 50 years. There’s so much tradition built into what we do.”

With Calame’s presidency, which started in October, other changes began at the group’s weekly meetings, Fridays at noon at La Jolla Presbyterian Church. “We have around 80 members and sing as a group at our meetings, so I wanted to make it a karaoke-style event,” he said. “We sang the theme from The Addams Family at Halloween, it was fun.”

Calame said he’s also been working to make the meetings more exciting to attract more and younger members. “We have speakers every week from every industry you can imagine — music and arts, Medicare, beekeeping, local activities, sea lions — and everything in between,” he said. “Plus it’s a great fellowship.”

Kiwanis Club of Torrey Pines

To raise (and later give away) some $75,000 a year, the Kiwanis Club of Torrey Pines presents the San Diego Festival of the Arts, which in 2016 moved from La Jolla to downtown San Diego.

“We raise money solely through the Festival,” said president and charter member Ross Ehrhardt. “When the Festival started 29 years ago, it was at the Jewish Community Center. We moved to La Jolla Country Day and then to UCSD. But this past year (2016), we decided to move the venue down to Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego. That has been a marvelous move because we’re now engaging all of San Diego. It was a bit of a risk, but our attendance was up 30 percent this year. It wasn’t a home run, but a triple. It re-energized the club.”

On Oct. 26, the club granted more than $90,000 to more than 30 different programs that reach 5,000 people. The 2017 art festival will be June 10-11 at the Waterfront Park.

The funds raised are distributed to charities that provide sport and recreation programs for children, adults and veterans with disabilities. “From day one, that’s been our singular focus,” Ehrhardt said. “There are a lot of small bootstrap charities we support and that’s important because they need help to get their programs going. One of them is the Naval Medical Center surf clinic, which teaches young injured veterans how to surf. We were fortunate to start a relationship with them.”

Each year, new programs to support are added, and many of the club’s 27 members spend the year getting to know these organizations. Ehrhardt said, “We go out, visit the programs, see how they are doing and how we can help in addition to financial support. It’s wonderful to see. Especially when we visit the youth programs, because you get to see a youngster who usually isn’t around other kids with disabilities and they get to come together within their ability group, make friends, participate in sports ... seeing their smiles is extraordinary.”

In addition to sport and recreation programs, the chapter supports art-related charities for veterans through Sharp Rehabilitation Services. With weekly Wednesday morning meetings at the Good Samaritan Church, Ehrhardt said, “Our Kiwanis Club is great opportunity for people to come together to give themselves to others in San Diego. We’re so proud to be able to make our community a better place to live.”

Want to know more?

Kiwanis Club of La Jolla meets, noon Fridays at the La Jolla Presbyterian Church, 7155 Draper Ave. and is seeking new members. (858) 900-2710.

Kiwanis Club of Torrey Pines meets, 7:20 a.m. Wednesdays at the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, Roetter Hall, 4321 Eastgate Mall. On the fourth Wednesday of the month, the club has a dinner meeting, 6:30 p.m. at Mimi’s Café, 10788 Westview Parkway. First three meetings free, then $15.