While Steph Curry is first and foremost a basketballer, and a superb one at that, he is also immersed in the game of golf. As a passionate player who boasts a handicap of scratch, or better. And as a supporter of the sport in a variety of grow-the-game ways, whether through his Underrated Golf Tour, a junior golf initiative for those underrepresented in the game, or his funding of the men’s and women’s golf squads at Howard University.
A two-time MVP in the National Basketball Association who has led the Golden State Warriors to four NBA titles, Curry is also employing golf as a way to fund an Oakland, California-based charitable organization he and his wife, Ayesha, established in 2019. Called Eat. Learn. Play., it is designed to help end childhood hunger in that city while also ensuring that students there have access to a quality education as well as safe spaces for them to play and be active.
To date, the organization has raised $38 million to support nearly 30 community partners in Oakland, which sits across the bay from the arena where the Warriors play their home games. Some of those monies have been allocated to literacy programs that have led to the distribution of 500,000 books. Other funds went to serving roughly 25 million meals to children and their families and distributing 2 million pounds of produce, investments that were especially appreciated during the pandemic, when school lockdowns suddenly deprived the 20,000-odd Oakland children who relied on the multiple meals they had been receiving there on a daily basis.
“When the possibility arose for Workday to become the presenting sponsor of the Memorial with Eat. Learn. Play. as a beneficiary, Steph’s reaction was: ‘The Memorial? Jack Nicklaus? Are you kidding me? How do we make this happen?’” – Chris Helfrich
Last year, Eat. Learn. Play. received a massive boost when it became one of two primary beneficiaries of the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament presented by Workday along with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which has been a part of that event since it was first played in 1976. With that involvement, the foundation began backing initiatives to address those same “three pillars for a healthy childhood” in Columbus, Ohio, a city that lies just to the southeast of Dublin, where the tournament site, Muirfield Village, is located, while continuing its efforts in Oakland.
The 2022 event marked the beginning of what at the very least will be a 10-year relationship between Workday and the Memorial as the tournament’s presenting sponsor, with Eat. Learn. Play. there every step of the way.
Only two years in, the association is already paying dividends for all involved, proving once again that charitable causes benefit greatly when major corporations and the PGA Tour combine forces to serve golf fans as well as the greater good.
According to foundation CEO Chris Helfrich, Eat. Learn. Play. and Workday, a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications that is headquartered in Pleasanton, California, the seeds for that partnership were sown several years ago when they expressed interest in hosting a PGA Tour event together.
“But the idea never really got off the ground,” he said. “That, however, did not stop Steph and people at Workday, like its co-founder and chairman Aneel Bhusri, from continuing to talk about the idea. When the possibility arose for Workday to become the presenting sponsor of the Memorial with Eat. Learn. Play. as a beneficiary, Steph’s reaction was: ‘The Memorial? Jack Nicklaus? Are you kidding me? How do we make this happen?’”
Curry and his colleagues found a way to do just that, and they were very pleased with the results from year one.
“The Memorial raised just under $5 million for its primary beneficiaries in 2022,” Helfrich said. “That represented a significant contribution for us, and about half what we received stayed in Columbus, with the rest going to investments we are making in Oakland. Over the years, we expect to establish a real foothold in Columbus with the money we are able to realize through the Memorial. And we are leaning a lot on the people at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to lead us in the right direction in Columbus as we continue to build on our work in Oakland, which is home to us and a place with a lot of need.”
Helfrich says that Eat. Learn. Play. was involved in this year’s Memorial in a number of ways.
“We were on site for the entire tournament,” he said. “Steph and Ayesha were there for the pairing party Tuesday night for Wednesday’s Workday pro-am. And the foundation hosted an event that evening that went on pretty late. Wednesday, they split up, with Steph playing in the pro-am and Ayesha spending the day with this year’s Golden Cubs, who are current and former patients from Nationwide that are invited each year to enjoy the tournament as VIPs along with their parents and siblings.
“Then on Saturday night, chef Michael Mina, who is Ayesha’s partner in a San Francisco restaurant called International Smoke, prepared a big dinner in downtown Dublin.”
The Memorial is not the only occasion in which Workday and Eat. Learn. Play. are collaborating.
“Workday has been a great friend,” Helfrich said. “And in addition to bringing us into the Memorial, they also back another big fundraiser for us, the annual Workday Charity Classic. The first two years were at Harding Park, and the last two at the Stanford University course.”
Leaders at the technology concern feel just as strongly about the relationship.
“Workday has a strong commitment to partnering with changemakers and leaders across sports, philanthropy and business,” said a company spokesman. “Stephen and Ayesha Curry are the epitome of what it means to lead and also to drive impact. Their mission with Eat. Learn. Play. is clear, and at Workday, we saw an opportunity to partner with an organization that was eager to tackle the challenges facing Oakland, California and Bay Area youth.”
The people at Eat. Learn. Play. talk a lot about the importance of partnerships, whether with Workday, Nationwide or outfits such as the Oakland Unified School District, and how so much of the good work they do is rooted in those relationships.
“We’re really proud of what we have been able to achieve,” Helfrich said. “But we know there is a lot more to do. We’re learning every day. Learning how to do it better. Learning where we can make the biggest difference. Figuring out how we can improve the school experience across all these three platforms for a generation of kids in Oakland and also Columbus.”
Workday is helping the foundation do that. Steph and Ayesha Curry, too, and also Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, the people behind the Memorial Tournament and the folks at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
It’s quite the collaboration.
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