49ers players gather for fundraiser at Squaw Valley
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers running back Anthony Dixon stared at the opposing team, intent on holding his ground as the players charged toward him.
Far from any football field, Dixon was on the ice rink at the Resort at Squaw Creek Friday afternoon, playing broomball, a variant of hockey. He, fullback Bruce Miller and a crowd of 49ers fans were learning the game from Olympic hockey player Bret Hedican. Dixon was playing goalie.
“I feel like I’m definitely better as a running back, but we’re going to get it together here and get the ‘W,’” the tailback said.
Dixon and Miller were among the many 49ers players, coaches, staff and fans to gather at the resort last weekend for the 13th annual Winter Fest. Other attendees included former 49ers players Dwight Clark, Guy McIntyre, J.J. Stokes, head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke.
An opportunity for fans to join their team and Olympians for three days of winter recreation, football talk and fine dining, Winter Fest is the primary fundraiser for the 49ers Foundation. The team’s community outreach organization, the foundation provides grants and funding for nonprofit and community development programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“There are three principles that we abide by with the foundation, keep kids safe, on track and in school,” former San Francisco defensive end Dennis Brown said. “The 49ers and Dr. York and Jed are very passionate about working with high-risk youth, youth that don’t have some of the advantages that a lot of us do have.
“There’s food, there’s wine, there’s a lot of activities, but the main goal is to raise money for these children.”
The organization recently celebrated a significant fundraising milestone.
“Last year was our 20th year,” Executive Director Joanne Pasternack said. “We’re really thrilled to be able to reach our goal of getting to twenty million dollars in total contributions over the history of our organization.”
The foundation donated $2.9 million to Bay Area nonprofits in 2012, Pasternack said.
“I think the foundation really speaks for itself,” Baalke said. “John and Denise and the entire York family have done an excellent job of supporting the community in so many ways.”
The organization combines nonprofit funding with player involvement in outreach events. Every player on the team has been involved in community programs the past two years, Pasternack said, an achievement that she is quite proud of.
“Being able to give back to the community, to give back to California, to San Francisco 49ers fans is a blessing,” Miller said. He recently participated in the 49ers Football Camp for the Stars, a football program for youth with Down syndrome.
The foundation has seen an increase in activity after the team’s trip to Super Bowl XLVII, Pasternack said, noting that Winter Fest tickets had sold out particularly early this time around.
“We’re doing all the events that we’ve done in the past, but we’re just doing them a little bit bigger this year,” she said.
Coaches and players alike were enjoying the opportunity to relax on and around Olympic Valley’s snow-capped peaks.
“There are a lot of fun activities,” Baalke said. “I just beat my daughter in three games of checkers, which was fun. Anytime you win it feels good. We’re going to hit the slopes a little bit, do some snowshoeing, get a chance to visit with some people that I haven’t seen since last year.”
Recreational opportunities for players had their limits however, with risk of injury being an obvious concern.
“No skiing for me,” Miller said. “There’s no telling what could happen when I’m coming down the mountain.”