Paul Austin, the founder of Play Marin, was inspired to start this charity as a result of his own childhood experiences growing up in Marin City, where he felt too many divisions existed. Now, his nonprofit organization is committed to bridging the gap between the different socioeconomic groups in the area, bringing kids together in the most basic way possible: through play, whether it's sports or just a play date.
Vanguard Properties, with offices in both Larkspur and Mill Valley, has long been a strong supporter of Play Marin. The two are united through a common focus on developing a strong sense of community across Marin county.
We spoke with Austin about his work to help the youth of Marin and create a greater sense of unity in our community:
What motivated you to create Play Marin?
I founded Play Marin because I felt like there was a need for youth in Marin County, including my own kids, to have exposure to people from a diversity of backgrounds, and to witness life situations that are different from their own. By closing the opportunity gap and intentionally placing kids from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds together, we can achieve the goal of greater understanding.
When did you first see a need for an organization like Play Marin?
I grew up in Marin City, and for years, heard the negative narratives that existed about certain communities within Marin (specifically Marin City and the San Rafael Canal). So, I decided to commit my life to changing that narrative. I wanted to instead highlight the talent, compassion, kindness and inclusion that I know my community holds, affording other communities an opportunity to experience it as well.
Could you share a story about the work your cause is doing?
We offer a number of youth sports, including volleyball, lacrosse (new for Spring 2019), basketball and track, both during the school year and during summer break.
Is there a story you of which you are particularly proud?
One of my most recent memorable moments in the last few months was the completion of the first season with our first CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) girl’s volleyball team outside of Marin City. This particular group of girls had never played volleyball before, and they exceeded our hopes and expectations. One of the biggest takeaways from this was that two of the girls were able to receive full scholarships to play competitive travel volleyball. You can’t put a price tag on how much this means.
In what ways do you think this cause is having a positive impact, have you had positive feedback from the beneficiaries?
Many parents and partners have approached me to share how Play Marin has been instrumental in assisting with growth and development of the youth in their lives. I also personally see how much our programs have increased the confidence of the kids who participate in them.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I’d like to send a warm thank you to all of the current and future supporters of the Play Marin movement.