Carmel Valley man supplies the shade

John Wood, aka “the tent guy.”
(Frank Rogozienski)

During his off-work hours attending Carmel Valley area youth sporting events, John Wood is known as the “tent guy.”

He’s the dad who shows up with a canopy to cool off players overheated under the often merciless Southern California sun.

“No doubt John went above and beyond what most parents did,” said fellow Carmel Valley youth sports supporter and coach Steve Pilarski. “He always brought the tent and put it up.”

That’s one of numerous examples of Wood’s contributions that Pilarski said he has seen over the 10 years their paths have crossed in association with their daughters’ and sons’ sports teams and leagues.

During a Huntington Beach soccer tournament, Pilarski recalled, Wood drove to Home Depot to purchase boards that were used to bridge a stream and retrieve a stray ball.

“He’d just be there for the kids as part of these leagues,” Pilarski said, citing their involvement over the years in Solana Beach Little League, Rancho Santa Fe youth soccer and North Shore Girls Softball. “His goal was to make sure the kids on those teams and their families were taken care of.”

Though his youth activism is winding down now that his son is off to college at Purdue University and his daughter is heading toward her senior year at Torrey Pines High, Wood said he will continue to actively support the teams and school.

When Wood is not pitching tents or chasing balls bounding beyond the pitch, the UCSD graduate “moonlights” as senior vice president of regulatory affairs, quality and project management at the biotech firm Tocagen.

Located across Interstate 5 from Torrey Pines Mesa, Tocagen is pioneering what Wood said could be the first approved gene therapy for brain cancer, if ultimately accepted by federal regulatory agencies.

The company is conducting a clinical study with 400 patients around the globe in an attempt to demonstrate its efficacy, he said.

Consistent with his professional role and his philosophy of service, Wood gives time to the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation. With each of his jobs in more than 20 years in regulatory affairs within the biomedical field, he has made a point to participate voluntarily with related nonprofits.

“What I’ve always tried to do in my biotech experience is volunteer in the therapeutic area I’m working in,” Wood said. “What it does for me professionally is it helps me appreciate the patients’ side of drug development. ... The work I do as a volunteer helps me professionally, and the work I do professionally helps me with the work I do as a volunteer.”

Wood’s profession has put him in contact with some heavy hitters in the medical and biotech industry, which is one reason he gets a kick out of his local “tent guy” tag.

“I’m proud of it,” he said. “I think that’s the exciting part of community involvement — it doesn’t matter who you are. ... It kind of fuels me to not take myself too seriously.”

Born in Scotland to a Scottish mother and a U.S. Navy sailor, Wood came to California with his family when he was 2. He spent much of his childhood in Southern California and moved from Norwalk to San Diego to attend college.

Now that Wood, 50, has a little more time on his hands, he is tackling another volunteer opportunity with the San Dieguito Union High School District, which includes Torrey Pines High.

Wood said he has been selected to be a member of the district’s Prop. AA Independent Citizens Oversight Committee. The panel monitors spending from a $449 million bond measure passed by district voters in 2012 to finance improvements to campus facilities.

Participating on the committee dovetails with the experiences Wood said he has had in youth sports in the ongoing effort to find or develop practice and game venues in this region.

“I get the question all the time, ‘Why do you do so much?’ My only answer to that is, ‘Why doesn’t everybody?” Wood said. “It’s our kids participating, and having more people volunteering support, more engagement and more support in general is going to make the experience better for everybody.”