OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The magnificent peaks looming over Squaw Valley shone pearly white in the early morning sun Friday, but red and gold were the colors of the day on the valley floor.
Coaches, staff, players and fans of the San Francisco 49ers arrived at Squaw Valley last week for the annual 49ers Foundation Winter Fest, a charity fundraising event in its 12th year.
The 49ers Foundation, a nonprofit wing of the team, supports community aid programs that provide services to low-income families, victims of child and domestic abuse and other disadvantaged individuals. The foundation has raised more than $16 million in its 20-year existence. Funding recipients include Court Appointed Special Advocates, counseling programs at the University of California, San Francisco, and numerous scholastic and after-school foundations.
Winter Fest is one of the 49er Foundation's premier fundraising efforts, providing guests with an intimate weekend of activities alongside 49ers alumni, players, coaches and staff.
“This is the biggest year yet, both in size and fundraising,” said 49ers Foundation director Joanne Pasternack. “We have around 500 guests, including 130 children.”
The fun was in full swing Friday morning, under the supervision of a number of Olympic athletes. Guests began the day ice skating with figure skater Peggy Fleming. Next was a “Curling 101” session led by curlers John Benton and Tracy Sachtjen. Higher up the mountain, skiers enjoyed a fresh dusting of powder alongside Olympic skiers Kristen Clark-Richenbach, Greg Jones and Jeff Hamilton.
“It's great to hang out with these Olympians,” said 49ers tight end Nate Byham. “My fiance grew up ice skating. She's a huge Peggy Fleming fan, she's really excited to meet Peggy.”
Along with winter activities, the weekend schedule included a number of live and silent auctions, a “Chalk Talk” football discussion with players and coaching staff, live musical entertainment and wine tastings featuring choice vintages from Napa and Sonoma counties. Younger fans looked forward to cupcake tasting and fireside s'mores with members of the 49ers cheerleading squad.
“It's phenomenal, everyone is here for the same purpose,” said 49ers defensive lineman coach Jim Tomsula while pouring hot cocoa for his 4-year-old son, Bear. “The event is a blast. Whether you're 4 or 90, they've got something fun for everyone.”
For 49ers alumnus Dennis Brown, the event combined family time with a good cause. The former defensive end played seven seasons for the team, helping defeat the San Diego Chargers to win Super Bowl XXIX in 1995.
“Both my kids are in college now, so this is kind of their spring break.” Brown said, watching his son and daughter circle the ice on skates.
Brown retired from the NFL in 1998, and lived in Seattle for two years before returning to the San Francisco Bay.
“I wanted to get involved in the alumni side, so I reached out to (49ers Alumni Relations Director) Guy McIntyre,” he said.
Now residing in San Mateo, Calif., Brown volunteers with a number of organizations including Second Harvest, a group that works to provide food for impoverished families. For this 49er and father, the game plan is simple.
“The goal is to stay in the community,” Brown said. “It's about giving back to the community.”