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Esteban Toledo teams with manager to launch foundation benefitting children

April 10, 2013

By Al Petersen, Southland Golf Magazine

This article has been reposted courtesy of Southland Golf Magazine.

They’re not exactly the odd couple, but Jay Miller and Esteban Toledo have enough differences in their backgrounds to make them an interesting pair. But if you look beyond the diverse paths they took to get where they are today it’s easy to see their common bond, which is helping others less fortunate.

Their newest venture is the Esteban Toledo Family Foundation, of which Miller is executive director and Toledo the driving force behind an effort they hope will raise a lot of money for a variety of youth initiatives.

Esteban Toledo (L) with manager, Jay Miller
Photo: Southland Golf Magazine

It’s the second time the men have joined forces on a worthy cause. The first was at the Get a Grip Foundation where Toledo was an ambassador and Miller the executive director. The foundation, which was established in 2002 at Cresta Verde Golf Course in Corona and later housed at Hidden Valley Golf Club in Norco, was a boon for underprivileged children until the founders dissolved it in early 2012.

“We basically changed more than 2,450 children’s lives, and the majority of those were from financially challenged families,” Miller said about Get a Grip, which provided tutoring, life skills, golf lessons and voluntary Bible study during its 10-year run. “We started with 47 kids in 2002 and it grew from there. It was a very rewarding time for me and everyone involved.”

He and Toledo have their sights set on accomplishing similar feats with the Esteban Toledo Family Foundation, which officially launched Feb. 1.

“Esteban’s dream has always been to have a foundation and to work on projects to help children and make sure they have the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education, an introduction to the Lord and golf,” said Miller, who was part of the 1981 Purdue Big Ten champion golf team. “We want to speak for children that can’t speak for themselves; we want to make sure they have all the opportunities to get a proper education, whether the project is in Mexico or here in Southern California.”

The first project will be south of the border in Mexicali, where Toledo was born and grew up in a home with dirt floors and no plumbing. One of 11 children sharing two beds, he scrapped early to survive by fishing balls out of a pond at Mexicali Country Club and selling them to golfers. He also worked at the driving range, tended bar, shined shoes, picked vegetables and even had a short stint as a boxer before appendicitis derailed his career after a 16-1 record. Remarkably, the boy who taught himself to play golf with an old iron on the fifth hole of the nearby club forged a nice career on the PGA TOUR, where he had 11 top-10 finishes in 289 events and earned nearly $4 million on the course. Now 50, he’s just getting started on the Champions TOUR and hopes to use that platform to promote his foundation.

“My whole life has been about trying to help people, trying to give back to the children, especially those who need it most,” Toledo said. “I tried to start a foundation a while ago but I knew I really had to do something during a recent trip to Mexicali where I met a group of orphans who desperately need our help.”

Assistance, and then some, will be on the way in the form of a 4,000-square-foot dormitory that will house 30 orphans in Toledo’s hometown. Miller said the foundation’s goal in the first year is to raise at least $250,000, which would help pay for the initial project and be a good starting point for other initiatives to come.

“We’ll oversee everyone of our projects and stick with them,” Miller said. “We’ll use Esteban’s stature and notoriety as a professional tour player to gain traction in raising money for the causes that the board of directors, Esteban and myself feel we can take on and succeed at. We’re not going to take on a project that we can’t complete.”

The foundation hopes to have the dormitory built by the end of the year, with other projects in the pipeline including a tutoring center in downtown Santa Ana and initiatives involving health, education, housing and nutrition, among other topics and needs. As one of the ways to raise funds, the initial Esteban Toledo Family Foundation Charity Classic will be held Sept. 30 at Tustin Ranch Golf Ranch Club, where Toledo hones his game under the tutelage of Erik Horve.

Toledo, who lives in Irvine, said his new foundation is a perfect way for he and his group to help underprivileged children, in addition to being a reminder of his roots and what can be accomplished with hard work and a helping hand.

“I lived the way a lot of these kids live as far as lacking basic necessities,” Toledo said of the Mexicali orphans that spurred his call to action. “Helping them out with Jay Miller and other groups that we work with is really important to us. … I know what it’s like to be at the bottom and now that I’m at the top, I don’t like to think of it that way. To me, I’m still below, looking around and seeing who needs help. This is my gift to them and hopefully to others.”

READ MORE ABOUT: Esteban Toledo , Youth/Children
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