Local nonprofit California Strong is gearing up for its first fundraiser since the start of the pandemic last year. The drive-in movie event at Calamigos Ranch this Saturday evening promises to be a fun, baseball-themed evening with food, drink and special appearances. A screening of the 1989 classic hit comedy sports film “Major League” will be preceded by an audience Q&A with film stars Charlie Sheen (who plays the part of pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn) and Bob Uecker (former catcher and longtime Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster).
All five of California Strong’s co-founders live in Malibu or nearby and all are connected to professional sports. Three belong to the Milwaukee Brewers organization—Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich both play for the team and Mike Attanasio directs the Brewers’ business strategy. Co-founder Jared Goff joined the NFL’s LA Rams in 2016 and co-founder Mike Moustakas plays for the Cincinnati Reds (Moustakas was on the Brewers from 2018-19).
In a phone interview, Attanasio explained that the nonprofit group was formed in November 2018.
“The Borderline shootings and the Woolsey Fire happened right after one another, and several of us were displaced from our homes in Malibu and were texting back and forth to try to find out if our homes were spared. It turned out all of us were OK, but we saw the devastation of others,” Attanasio described. “We never expected California Strong to grow into such a big thing.”
The mission of California Strong is to help California residents and groups impacted by natural disasters and tragic events with financial and beneficial aid. In its short history, the organization has raised more than $2.6 million and given grants to more than 1,400 families.
“We help with immediate needs right after a disaster occurs,” Attanasio emphasized. California Strong partners with the YMCA, which has a formal application and vetting process for aid. “We have a committee that vets the applications and we give checks directly to the families, usually between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on how many families apply.”
“If a number of families or individuals are in need after a particular tragedy, we jump right in and try not to be too selective about the type of tragedy it is,” he continued. “We helped eight families after the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash, but it doesn’t have to be something that’s a big media story.”
Families affected by the Woolsey Fire and Borderline shootings also got checks, as well as victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. Some of those first checks were handed out at a celebrity softball game held at Pepperdine’s Malibu campus in 2019.
California Strong even helped out during the pandemic—the nonprofit made generous donations to health organizations and hospitals, helped source personal protective equipment, provided over 100,000 meals, and gave 15,000 masks to first responders and families.
“The pandemic was different than our typical ‘tragic event,’” Attanasio noted. “Also, we couldn’t fundraise last year because of the pandemic, so we’re trying to build back our funds to be ready for the next event.”
California Strong had no trouble getting Charlie Sheen to agree to an in-person Q&A at the upcoming drive-in.
“He’s come to our celebrity softball games and is really active in wanting to help out local families in need and show his support,” Attanasio continued. “He told us he wanted to be there.”
At the drive-in movie fundraiser on Saturday, May 22, gates will open at 6 p.m., followed by a “red carpet” from 7 to 8 p.m., then the movie at 8 p.m. Food trucks like Earle’s Grill, Taco Boy and Capri Gelato will be onsite, along with snack shacks, drink options and California Strong merchandise.
Advance tickets and additional information are available at californiastrong.org. General admission for one car and one parking spot is $100, with food and beverages available for purchase. A $300 VIP ticket includes one VIP parking spot, two boxed dinners from Calamigos Ranch and four drink coupons.