Martin Mojarro competes during Avenues SLS' the 3rd Annual Cornhole Tournament fundraiser held at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita on Saturday, September 07, 2019

Cornaments for a cause

Many of the 46 teams who lined up to play cornhole at Avenues SLS’ third annual Cornhole Tournament FUNdraiser on Saturday were there for more than just a love of the game. 

In fact, most came to support Avenues Supported Living Services, the nonprofit host, in its efforts to raise funds to support people with developmental disabilities in remaining active in their communities. 

“Some people here are not associated with us at all, they just love cornhole … some are people we support, some are our staff, some are family members, but nobody stands out, because we’re really an inclusive group,” said co-founder Lori Shepard. “We make sure that everybody is doing things in the community the same as anybody else would.” 

Tyler Smith, 10, twirls in front of a cooling fan during Avenues SLS’ the 3rd Annual Cornhole Tournament fundraiser held at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita on Saturday, September 07, 2019

Kevin Sanders brought his family out to participate in the tournament, including his son Javen, who has been in the Avenues SLS program for more than 15 years.

“They’re not just babysitting, they’re actually teaching him how to be part of the community, and that’s important,” Sanders said, adding that it gives him peace of mind. “As a parent, knowing that not only is he safe, but also learning life lessons, how to exist by himself, making life choices that are good for him, it makes me feel a little bit better because I’m not going to live forever.” 

Avenues SLS not only teaches Javan how to live independently, but also how to take the bus, how to obtain and maintain employment, how to budget and how to be a part of the community by volunteering, according to Sanders. 

Justin Kay,11, Tosses his bean bag during Avenues SLS’ 3rd Annual Cornhole Tournament fundraiser held at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita on Saturday, September 07, 2019

“We really support people individually, whether that’s through their job, volunteer, work, stuff like that,” co-founder Scott Shepard said, adding that inclusion is a big deal to them. “We just provide whatever support people need, even up to 24/7 — whatever people need to be included in their own community.” 

The tournament at the Wolf Creek Brewery also included food trucks, vendors, face painting, henna tattoos as well as other family-friendly games, a raffle and a silent auction. Those who finished in the top three also won cash prizes totaling $1,000.

All proceeds will go to further support Avenues SLS’ mission of supporting adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to Natalie Cavarretta, director of development for the organization.

Participants check their standings during Avenues SLS’ 3rd Annual Cornhole Tournament fundraiser held at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita on Saturday, September 07, 2019

“With the state budget cuts and the local minimum wage ordinances, our rates aren’t adequate to pay for the services anymore,” Shepard said. “So, in order to keep our programming high-quality, and help them have meaningful and productive lives, a lot of this will go towards that.” 

Board member Sue Heldoorn’s 41-year-old son Dan joined the program when he was 20, and now he lives in a place of his own.  

“If it were not for this organization, I know for sure that not only would my son not have a life, but we as parents would not have a life, either,” she said. “Were it not for this agency, Dan would not have the life that he has in any sense. Their lives are now set up for the future. This is an unbelievable source of comfort and relief.”

Teammates Norman Coe, left, and Ray Sanchez compete during Avenues SLS’ the 3rd Annual Cornhole Tournament fundraiser held at Wolf Creek Brewery in Santa Clarita on Saturday, September 07, 2019

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