Back-to-School Bash brings type of normalcy

August 15th, 2020

If you thought the Kershaws would sleep in Saturday after Clayton’s seven innings of one-hit ball Friday night, you don’t know the Kershaws.

First, Clayton and Ellen have three kids, so sleeping in is just a memory. More to the point, Saturday was the Kershaw's Challenge’s annual Back-to-School Bash. If there’s anything that ranks with family and baseball for the Kershaws, it’s doing the Lord’s work.

Even, and especially, during a pandemic. Social distancing dictated it be a drive-thru distribution at Dodger Stadium. But that still meant 3,700 preregistered youth received backpacks, food boxes from Melissa’s Produce, face masks, sunscreen, hygiene supplies from UCLA Health, Sound Body Sound Mind home physical education kits, school supplies and other materials needed for the new school year. The Kershaws watched the event via Zoom.

“To have some type of normalcy to do this is really special,” Clayton said. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s happening. Fundraising in a pandemic isn’t easy.”

Pulling it off meant more this year than others, because the Kershaws’ annual summer fundraiser, “Ping Pong 4 Purpose,” and fall country concert in Dallas, Texas, “KC Live,” had to be canceled. Clayton and Ellen thanked Skechers and their other partners for stepping up to make Saturday happen.

“These kids have had so much canceled over the last few months, things they really look forward to,” Ellen said. “It’s important not just normalcy, but something that hasn’t been canceled in their lives. Getting school supplies is always fun. I’m hoping they’re blessed by this today.”

Saturday’s event was coordinated by the Dream Center of Los Angeles, presented by Kershaw’s Challenge with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and the Dodgers as signature partners. Recipient families included the Dodgers RBI sports-based youth development program, and partners included the Boys and Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley, YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Girls Academic Leadership Academy, Woodcraft Rangers, Crystal Stairs, School on Wheels and the Compton Unified School District. Community distributions will also support Pueblos del Rio, Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, San Fernando Gardens and William Mead Homes. 

The charitable foundation run by the Kershaws began a decade ago, as Clayton said, “just trying to help one kid” in Zambia, “and it’s turned into what it is, really, through God’s plan,” leading to the building of orphanages and relief work and charity events for the underserved.

“When we started Kershaw’s Challenge, we had a love for kids,” Ellen said. “It resonates completely different once you have kids, a child in your household that you are solely responsible for. Your heart grows inside for kids and your compassion for them, and you wish you could give every kid the opportunity your kids have.

“It’s really important for us to have Charley, Cali and Cooper to grow up in a household where they understand that we give back. This is our responsibility and joy and pleasure to use Clayton’s platform of playing baseball to make an impact that will last far longer than Clayton’s baseball career does.”

Clayton sees a linkage between his drive and success on and off the field.

“I don’t believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “Anything that happens on and off the field is supposed to happen.”

While in many obvious ways the Kershaws are unlike the typical household, in some ways they can relate to the basic challenges.

“We’re about to start homeschool for our kids next week, and we’re very much in the same boat as all of these parents attending the Back-to-School Bash. It’s kind of daunting to walk through, especially if you have no teaching experience, like me,” Ellen said. “If this gives even the parents a little reprieve, OK, the school supplies are taken care of, that’s one thing I can check off the worry list.”

Added Clayton: “Obviously, we’re in a great position. I can still work, still get to play baseball, our kiddos are here and I have the mornings and we have support. I just can’t imagine families with both parents work and having kids need to go to online school. Like Ellen said, it’s very daunting.”