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The Right Thing To Do

May 13, 2020

BERKELEY – Garrett Dunn and Lucas Allen knew there was work to be done. The question was, how?
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the Bay Area, Dunn and Allen, freshmen on the Cal men's water polo and football teams, respectively, found themselves motivated to help socioeconomically disadvantaged K-12 students continue their academic development through remote learning.
Their solution was Team Educational Development (TED), a charity organization that collected over 3,000 books during an April 11 book drive that will be donated to East Bay youth. Co-created by Dunn, Allen and a pair of their former Campolindo High School friends – brothers John and Luke Campo, a pair of freshmen student-athletes at Amherst College (Mass.) – TED found immediate success in lending a hand to the local community just weeks after shelter-in-place orders were issued to the Bay Area.
"About a week into being sheltered in place, my classes were starting to dial back and I didn't have the daily football practice commitments that I was used to," Allen said. "For the first time since becoming a Cal student-athlete, I had a good bit of free time on my hands and I wanted to put it to use."
Allen called Dunn, and within 48 hours, the best friends were putting TED in motion. To promote TED and the book drive, the group created a website and spread the word through their personal Instagram profiles.
"It was seamless for all four of us," Dunn said. "We've all been friends for a long time and there's trust and mutual respect between us. We have similar work ethics and morals, and that made it easy to collaborate and get TED off the ground in a short amount of time."
The group set up two ways to collect the books while abiding by proper social distancing guidelines, offering a pick-up service from people's doorsteps and providing a three-hour drop-off window at the Safeway supermarket in Moraga. Expectations were quickly exceeded as TED collected over 3,000 books, far more than their anticipated range of 500-1,000.
"It was such an incredible response to see the way our community stepped up and supported those in need," Allen said.
The response to the book drive led to a pair of partnerships between TED and the Berkeley Public Schools Fund and GO Public Schools Oakland to help with distribution efforts.
"One of our biggest concerns in the aftermath was ensuring we knew those books would end up in the hands of those who really needed them," Dunn said. "Partnering with Berkeley Public Schools Fund and GO Public Schools allowed us to utilize their phenomenal outreach programs and let us know those books will go exactly where we want them to."
TED was a direct result of the community service efforts that Dunn and Allen were already involved with at Cal. Before the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the programs, the pair had served hot meals to community members at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and was involved in UC Berkeley's SAGE Mentorship Project at Oxford Elementary School, where they provided one-on-one mentoring to local youth who were in need.
"When we didn't get the chance to finish our time with our SAGE mentees, that hurt," Dunn said. "I grew up in Lafayette – a financially secure area – and I saw how different things can be just 20 minutes away at Oxford Elementary. Our involvement with SAGE forced me outside of my comfort zone and encouraged me to take a leap of faith to help my neighbors."
Dunn credits his older brother, Justin, a former two-sport athlete at Cal (football, rugby) and a co-recipient of the 2018 Walter A. Haas Jr. Community Service Award, as a source of mentorship with helping others. Dunn and Allen's efforts to engage with their community also tie into a core principal of being a Cal student-athlete.
"Garrett and Lucas embody the essence of being #MoreThanAnAthlete, specifically as it pertains to engaging with individuals within their respective communities," said Bobby Thompson, Cal's Director of Student-Athlete Development. "I'm impressed by their selfless drive to provide value to diverse people in need. This proactive initiative in leveraging their platforms to do well reflects Cal's holistic Student-Athlete developmental framework: career preparation, character and leadership development, and community engagement. I'm excited to see them scale their passions via TED, and enhance their positive impact throughout society."
As Bay Area communities continue to be impacted by COVID-19, there's still work to be done through TED. The 3,000-plus collected books will soon be transitioned to the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, which will handle the distribution to families and children in need of the books. TED will then shift its focus to its next project – a technology drive for used laptops, tablets and home Wi-Fi systems.
"We knew the technology drive would be a challenge, but once we saw the tremendous response to our book drive, we realized it can be a reality," Allen said. "Access to technology can change people's lives right now, especially youth who aren't able to have that true remote learning experience without it."
It's uncertain what TED will be in the long term, but both Golden Bears want to continue building it into a vehicle for change.
"We'll always have that drive to help others within our communities," Dunn said. "Being Cal student-athletes has taught us the importance of using our platforms to lend a hand. It's the right thing to do."
To make a donation through TED, click here.

Story by Gerrit Van Genderen, Cal Athletics

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