A 25-Year Old Greyhound Foundation Continues to Pioneer ‘Doing What’s Best for Kids’
With a massive effort, it succeeded in its first mission, and for two decades, Atascadero boasted the finest track and field facilities in SLO County. High Schools around the area are catching up, but the Greyhound Foundation continues to pioneer the delivery of needed resources to our local high school students.
In 2012, the Foundation formed LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero, to provide funding for addiction counseling at Del Rio Continuation High School — now Paloma Creek Continuation High School. Through the LIGHTHOUSE program, high school students gain access to a licensed SLO County therapist which they can choose to see on their own volition. The program has provided the service for five years.
“It’s made such a difference in my life knowing that because of LIGHTHOUSE other families will be spared from going through what our family has had to go through losing Jake to addiction,” LIGHTHOUSE chairperson Lori Bagby said.
“It is such a great feeling to see our community come together to fight this nationwide epidemic and I know that Lighthouse is changing lives.”
For many years, the Foundation motto has been “Doing What’s Best for Kids,” which it still pioneers. But with the growing focus on LIGHTHOUSE, serving resources to battle addiction and substance abuse, Foundation executive director Donn Clickard has gravitated toward “Making a Difference,” which is drawn from a short story about throwing sea stars into the ocean, by Loren Eiseley in 1969.
Like the marathons that run around the track at AHS, the leadership of the Greyhound Foundation is in for the long haul. Current board president Wayne Cooper has presided over the board for the most of the life of the Foundation, but is looking at his term finally coming to an end. This year, the Foundation has adopted a succession plan with board members Rolfe Nelson and Jim Stecher stepping into President Elect, and President Elect Elect positions, respectively.
“The reason we did that is to create a plan for the future,” Wayne said. “Our ideas were that we were going to find someone younger to take over, but also to create a succession plan.”
The growth of the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation, like all growth, came with its own pains. Some contend that the original focus on athletics has been lost and priorities changed. But the change embraces opportunity, and the community is much different than it was nearly 25 years ago when the Foundation began.
“It has changed dramatically from where it started,” Wayne said about the growth. “From building the track to the Hall of Fame and fundraisers, now the focus is really about the LIGHTHOUSE. We were focusing on a small group, and now we are focusing on the entire population.”
It could be said that the focus has not changed, but instead has expanded. It was a former student at Atascadero High School that was the catalyst for a massive shift in the focus of the Foundation. In 2011, Foundation president emeritus Doug Filipponi lost his son Jeff in a high speed chase after a troubling bout with addiction and drug abuse. That final blow led Doug to call on his colleagues on the board to do something to help those in great need. Out of that call was born the concepts that today drive LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero reach out to students who might struggle with addiction and other causes of adolescent drug abuse.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and LIGHTHOUSE applies itself to attending to those links in need, providing solutions to catastrophic issues. The help it provides is often unmeasurable, but the hope drives the mission.
“It is the funeral we don’t attend,” AGF executive director Donn Clickard said about the measurement of the program’s success.
LIGHTHOUSE has provided financial support for high school counseling for six years, and last year expanded services to create the LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero Mentoring Program, or LAMP, which pairs high-school mentors with sixth-graders.
“Mentoring is what we really wanted to do from the beginning [of LIGHTHOUSE],” Donn said. “Problems solving, peer mentorship, critical thinking, we believe it will help kids become drug free. It helps them become leaders and not followers.”
The program was led by teacher Julie Davis (not to be confused with the Monterey Road Elementary principal Julie Davis), and after the first year, the Foundation was ready for more.
“I won’t say it exceeded expectations,” Donn said, “because we expected it to be good. What we didn’t expect is the relationships that formed between the students. These are potentially life-long relationships forming.”
Donn said the completion of the first year and planning of the future is a dream come true for the Foundation, but why stop there.
The Foundation provides services specifically to high school students, but they LIGHTHOUSE beacon has been a light of hope for those in the community in search of answers to addiction issues. A fateful phone call for help led Donn to believe they could do more, and provide a resource for people of all ages — so was born LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero Support, Education, and Resources, or LASER, to “answer questions about addiction and help people who just don’t know what to do.”
The Atascadero Greyhound Foundation is not a board filled with doctors or therapists, but lifelong educators, school district administrators, and local business owners who want to make a difference — symptoms of addiction were the problem, and LIGHTHOUSE provided the opportunity.
“Hall of Fame is really interesting and really cool, or Hares N Hounds and All Comers,” Donn said, “but when you look at the LIGHTHOUSE run, or golf tournament, and the people coming together around these programs, it is really exciting.”
With LIGHTHOUSE, LAMP, and LASER lighting the way, the Foundation is pioneering and
fostering the relationship between the community and the education system, to help kids be their best selves. The game is on, and for some it is already in overtime, but the programs and playbook the Foundation is working from might just lead to a game-winning touchdown.
For more information, go to atascaderogreyhound foundation.org.
For information on LIGHTHOUSE, go to lighthouseatascadero.org