If you have read my stories over the years, you know that I have always been big on athletes giving back to the community.
Especially here in the East Bay Athletic League, where most athletes have lived a charmed life, blessed to have played high school sports with great coaches, great teammates, overall great facilities, and a good league in just about every sport.
So, when I see one – or several – giving back to their area, I like to sing their praises. And when they continue to carry their efforts forward, well, you must give them additional credit.
Such is the case with former Foothill and Amador Valley basketball players Anirudh Murugesan (Foothill), and Jackson Cash (Amador). Now sophomores in college – Murugesan at U.C. Davis and Cash at Whitworth (Spokane, Washington) – their original drive to get new or slightly used athletic equipment to those in need is still going.
Cash is hamstrung time wise as he is playing basketball for Whitworth, but according to Murugesan, they talk regularly about the movement.
Now in their third year, what they started when they were high school juniors, is growing.
“Jackson and I had a great relationship, having played CYO together when we were growing up,” said Murugesan. “We wanted to do something like a camp and the equipment drive, but then COVID hit.”
The equipment drive moved forward.
“There are a lot of affluent families out here that might have a lot of equipment or clothing that they hardly used,” said Murugesan. “We thought, let’s repurpose it.”
And they did, with a successful event. When they were done, the two thought that might be it.
“It seemed like it would be a one-off,” said Murugesan. “Later that year we had someone reach out and wanted to do something like this.”
The desire to continue drove Murugesan toward starting a non-profit which he did in August of 2022, launching “The Student Athlete Community Foundation.”
This comes in addition to a tough course load Murugesan is carrying at Davis.
“Something I have learned is that I can’t deal with free time and doing nothing,” explained Murugesan. “By working on initiatives, I have gotten to meet some awesome people. I have gotten to work with some other non-profit organizations, and it has been a great experience.”
This year’s version, The 3rd Annual New Year, New Gear Drive is set for this Sunday Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The group is searching for new/slightly used athletic equipment, clothing, and shoes for underserved communities.
As part of the master plan, Murugesan has brought other EBAL schools into the fold. Joining Amador and Foothill this year will be California, Dougherty Valley, Dublin and Cerritos High in Southern California.
Each school will be hosting an event at their respective schools this Sunday. Anyone with donations can drop them off at the school.
Heading up the involved schools are Colton Cash (Jake’s little brother), Tyler Cheng (Amador); Jake Clevenger, JJ Jamali (Foothill); Kellen Torrey (Cal); Adam Moore (Dublin), and a program wide effort led by Coach Mike Hansen at Dougherty Valley.
How did Cerritos become involved in this East Bay event.
“I was talking with a girl at Davis about it and she suggested getting her brother involved,” said Murugesan. "I called him and he’s in.”
It is the type of move Murugesan is looking for in terms of the future.
“The end goal is to be able to do this with my own kids someday,” said Murugesan. “We would like to get all the EBAL schools involved by next year.”
He would also like to see the original plan for a camp to be held for the younger kids in the communities.
“I can remember when I was growing up in Pleasanton that some of the guys that I looked up at would take the time to work with us,” explained Murugesan. “It was amazing that these guys took the time to work with the younger kids. I would like to have kids as they grow up have the same experience.”
It is a tremendous effort that Murugesan and Cash launched three years ago and one that should be a model for years to come.
For questions or more information about the Student Athlete Community Foundation, e-mail [email protected]