People in Your Neighborhood: Michael Nance of A Bridge for Kids

Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Michael Nance resigned from his job as an investment manager the day his wife was diagnosed with cancer, nine years ago. They traveled for a while until they started the non-profit A Bridge for Kids that helps teens from low-income families reach their life goals.

Nance will be spending Thanksgiving at home with his children, Brendan, 18, and Amanda, 15, his parents and sister. His wife passed away a year ago.

How did you end up in La Jolla?

“I grew up in New Jersey. I went school in Philadelphia and Chicago, and then moved to Boston, where I lived for 15 years, working in investment management. We moved out here as a family, about 12 years ago. It was a conscious decision for the weather and the lifestyle.”

What do you do for fun?

“The charity that I run, A Bridge for Kids, is fun. We just had a fundraiser where we raised more than $275,000, and the last couple of weeks we’ve been out awarding sponsorships to low-income kids in San Diego with the money the community pledged. There’s nothing more fun than seeing a kid, who literally has nothing, who sleeps on the floor, and awarding him a $1,000 sponsorship, telling him he can go on college tours and take an SAT prep class for free. Seeing the joy in his face as he started to cry ... there’s nothing I’d rather do than that.

Also hanging out with my kids. My son just signed up to play baseball with Fordham in New York, he’s a senior at La Jolla Country Day, so I spent a lot of time watching baseball for the last 12-13 years. My daughter played three different sports last year at La Jolla Country Day — volleyball, soccer and lacrosse — so it’s a full-time job watching their games.”

How did you come up with the idea for ‘A Bridge for Kids’?

“It’s something I wanted to do since I got in business school when I was 25. I think that’s important. I always had a soft spot in my heart for kids, having raised a couple, and we found there are more charities for younger kids, as opposed to teenagers, who have pimples and can be grumpy, and who don’t get any kind of community support. So we thought, let’s go to the place that gets the least amount of help, and that’s where our focus is, on low-income teenagers in San Diego.”

What was your upbringing like?

“My growing up was very similar to the kids we work with, I was lower-middle class, but my parents worked long hours, my dad never went to college, both my parents worked very hard to put food on the table, but they had a work ethic and they wanted to do more with their lives and they instilled those traits in me. The other part of my childhood was playing sports, I played basketball and baseball, pretty much full time in high school.”

What do you enjoy most in life?

“Over the last couple of years we’ve been to Africa, Italy, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta; as a family we like to travel a lot. But really, my time is consumed with the kids and the charity. I enjoy food and a lot of the local restaurants here in San Diego and in La Jolla. We are very lucky to have so many restaurants and opportunities to enjoy good food.”

Do you cook at home?

“I love to cook. Actually, I was going to culinary school last year, it was a dream of mine, and then my wife passed away, so I had to cut that short. I love to cook, I’m an OK cook, but I’d like to get better, so maybe someday I’ll go back to culinary school.”

What’s the dish your kids ask you for?

“Mushroom risotto.”

What’s your favorite sport?

“I love all sports. It’s funny because I grew up on the East Coast and sports are very different there. I lived in Boston for 15 years, I was a huge fan of the Boston Bruins, the Red Sox and the New England Patriots, and I moved here and sports are just not the same; they don’t take the same intensity as they did in the East Coast. But my favorite sport, if I had to pick one, will always be baseball, and if anything, I like high school and college baseball better than pro baseball.”

What are you most thankful for?

“When we started the charity, five years ago, it was really just friends and family, and we weren’t sure of where it was going to go. It was really because of the generosity of everyone in the community (50 percent of it in La Jolla alone), that this grew into what it is today. I’ve never seen anything like it. In Southern California, San Diego and La Jolla there are so many generous people, and we are just so thankful, especially around this season when you take for granted that you are going to have a turkey and presents under the tree.”

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