By Kristina Houck
It was 16 years ago when a small group of friends from Del Mar and Solana Beach were sitting on a chairlift talking about how easy they had it. That’s when they decided to give back to others in their communities.
“We were all up snowboarding years ago, sitting on a chair, looking at each other and talking about how good our lives were,” recalled founding member Ed Cleary, who lives in Solana Beach. “We decided it would be selfish to not be more actively involved in our community.”
The group established The Sand Dollar Foundation to support local organizations that help children in need. Through its annual gala, the nonprofit organization has raised and donated more than $300,000 to organizations such as Casa de Amparo, Polinsky Children’s Center and San Pasqual Academy.
“It is the most simple grassroots thing that we could possibly put together,” Cleary said. “There’s absolutely zero expense, other than the cost of the event, which is kept extraordinarily low through donation and participation. Other than that expense, every dollar that comes in makes its way to kids in our community.”
The Sand Dollar Foundation held its 16th annual gala Dec. 9 at the Belly Up Tavern, where the event has taken place several years. The gala, which raised more than $25,000 for the Sand Dollar Foundation, included dinner, cocktails, awards, silent and live auctions, and live music from Randy Fontaine and the Swingers.
A majority of funds raised will benefit La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, which The Sand Dollar Foundation has supported for three years — since La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation formed in September 2010. To encourage local youth to make positive choices and improve resources for all residents, La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation has created a community garden, launched a youth leadership camp, formed a youth soccer program, hosted a community forum, and more.
Some funds will also benefit Feeding America and the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation, Cleary said.
“Over the last few years, we’ve made a greater effort to really give directly inside our community,” Cleary said. “La Colonia de Eden Gardens works to support the kids in that community by giving them all the tools that they need to become the leaders of their community.”
For those who were unable to attend, donations can be sent to The Sand Dollar Foundation at 1111 Solana Drive, Del Mar, 92014. The nonprofit’s taxpayer identification number is 27-2964569.
“La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation is a great grassroots organization,” Cleary said. “The majority of all the things that the vast majority of the kids in our community get to experience — they want to make sure that the kids out of that community get that. Our mission has always been to support less privileged kids in our area in a way that they can grow and achieve success.”
For more information about The Sand Dollar Foundation, visit
For more information about La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, visit