By Kristina Houck
While Torrey Pines High School football players have been preparing for the season, their parents have been fundraising for their safety.
The Torrey Pines High School Foundation recently bought 80 new helmets for the varsity team. The Schutt helmets were delivered to the campus at the start of August, in time for the final weeks of practice before the season begins at the end of the month. To raise the rest of the money needed for helmets, the foundation is hosting a fundraiser Aug. 23 at Del Mar Shores Park.
“We want to get to a place where no helmet is older than five years,” said head football coach Ron Gladnick, who noted the helmets are listed at roughly $420 each. “It’s 10 years at most schools.”
An estimated 67,000 diagnosed concussions occur during high school football games each year. That’s 11.2 for every 10,000 games and practices, which is twice the rate of college football, according to a 2013 study conducted by the Institute of Medicine and funded by the NFL.
To prevent concussions, the foundation bought 60 new helmets last year for the varsity team, which will now go to the junior varsity players. After this latest purchase, about 80 percent of the program’s helmets are less than two years old, Gladnick said.
“As a head coach, you always want to do the best you can do within the budgetary constraints that you have,” said Gladnick. He was hired as head coach in March after being head coach at Clairemont High School for the past two seasons, where he led the Chieftains to their first playoff victory in 20 years. He previously was assistant coach at Torrey Pines.
“As a head coach, it makes you feel good to be in a position where you’ve done everything you can to make sure the kids have the safest gear. I feel very, very fortunate because we’ve been able to do so because of the support we have.”
On behalf of his law firm, Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident Jordan Cohen donated $10,000 to kick off the foundation’s fundraising in June.
“Helmet safety is a concern for all parents,” said Craig Kelley, a parent liaison with the foundation. “This is just a wonderful, generous gift from the Cohen law firm. We, as parents, are grateful for their support of Torrey Pines football and the safety of the boys.”
As founder of the Cohen Law Firm, Cohen represents professional athletes in California workers’ compensation cases, including former NFL players who have suffered head injuries during their careers.
“Obviously, he feels so strongly about the safety of the kids, looking at ex-NFL players,” said Carmel Valley resident Jackie Cohen about her ex-husband. Their son, Harrison Cohen, is a varsity football player at Torrey Pines High School.
“Purchasing new helmets is incredibly important for the safety of the children and the prevention of concussions and future problems,” she added.
The school’s football program has approximately 180 students. Foundation board member Sophia Alsadek said football is “pretty much a parent-funded sport,” and it costs about $1,200 per player per season.
“You don’t have to pay to play, so we have to fundraise for everything,” Alsadek said.
To raise the remaining funds for the purchased helmets, the foundation is hosting a tailgate party from 6-10 p.m. Aug. 23 at Del Mar Shores Park, on Ninth Street in Del Mar. Tickets to the event cost $75 and include gourmet tailgate fare, craft beer and wine, and live music. There will also be an opportunity drawing, as well as a silent and a live auction.
“The foundation does an amazing job of supporting our school,” Gladnick said. “Anyone in the community who would like to help Torrey Pines can do so through the foundation. It does a great job of making sure dollars go to where they’re most needed to help the most kids. I think that’s a great thing to have in a public school environment.
“We’re blessed because not every school has the things we have. We have those things because of our foundation.”
For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To buy tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/789409.