The San Francisco 49ers Foundation, in partnership with NFL Charities, hosted the eleventh annual 49ers Community Quarterback Awards to recognize dedicated local individuals who devote their time to improving the lives of Bay Area residents at a luncheon on Tuesday.
The winner of the 2011 49ers Community Quarterback Award, Janis Baron, Los Gatos resident and Founder of Sunday Friends, was presented a $10,000 grant in honor of her contributions to the community. Baron founded Sunday Friends in 1997 as a "working alternative to charity," where those receiving assistance through hands on participation, could build their skills, contribute to the community, develop their support network and also increase their self-confidence.
"It's so exciting to be honored for something like this because it's a recognition of what thousands of people have developed together over these years," Baron said. "It means a lot that the community and the 49ers care about an organization that's providing opportunities for families rather than handouts. It's wonderful that there's a consciousness at this time that values making it possible for people to work, to give back to their community, and to learn what they need to develop those skills."
Today, through Sunday Friends, Baron has crafted a model that successfully helps families on the verge of homelessness channel their energy into a positive direction to help them rebuild their lives. Sunday Friends has been running programs at their site in downtown San Jose, and recently announced plans for expansion. "Honestly, I'm seeing this as our first donation toward expanding the program, and I hope this will inspire many others," said Baron.
The 49ers were also pleased to recognize the five Community Quarterback Award finalists, who each received a $1,000 grant for their non-profit organizations. Among the finalists honored were Chad Bojorquez of InnVision the Way Home; Police Officer with the Mountain View Department Ron Cooper, who is a dedicated volunteer and coach with MVPAL, a School Resource Officer, founder of Cops That Care and the MVPAL boxing program, and overseer of Dreams & Futures; Vietnam Veteran and founder of the Mexican Open Committee Tony Cueva; Founder of the Have a Ball Foundation Bob Hammer; and Jill Valladares, who is a dedicated volunteer with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.
Former 49ers quarterback Steve Bono emceed the event for his fifth consecutive year, and highlighted the importance of each of the honorees and the huge impact they make in the community. "Everyone's a winner today, and I can say that all of you would be good quarterbacks because I often say that as a quarterback, you're trained to think that it's always third-and-ten and you have to get a first down," Bono said. "And what you all do is just that: Get first downs for your community."
Finalist Jill Valladares was inspired to dedicate her time to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society when her daughter, Noelle, was diagnosed with leukemia and later succumbed to the disease. Valladares uses her incredible energy to inspire others to give and work hard to increase bone marrow registries in underserved counties.
"My daughter just loved the 49ers," Valladares said. "She would dress up in her cute little red hoodie, make pom-poms, and cheer for her favorite team. Noelle believed in finding a cure, and so I am so thrilled that LLS will be receiving a $1000 grant from the 49ers Foundation, which will put us at $20 thousand for team Noelle 2011. So, thank you so much for helping us reach our goal, for inspiring us, and just sharing our spirit."
"The Community Quarterback Awards are always a highlight of the year for the 49ers – it is heartening to see how many people are dedicated to transforming the fabric of the Bay Area. When reviewing the applications, we are amazed and inspired by the tremendous dedication to philanthropic giving of those in our community," shared Joanne Pasternack, 49ers Foundation/Community Relations Director. "In line with the 49ers Foundation's commitment to supporting those in need, the Community Quarterback Awards enable us to partner with NFL Charities to provide much needed funding to amazing organizations."
In order to recognize and honor their leadership, dedications, and commitment to bettering their communities, the finalists and winner will also be acknowledged in an on-field presentation prior to the 49ers game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.