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New Year, New Hope

Chris Brigandi’s efforts to help families and kids in need last long after the holidays.
 

Life turned out more than OK for Chris Brigandi. After trying to make a go at being a professional musician in the early 1980s, he turned to real estate. “It was the one thing I could do because I didn’t have a college education,” says Brigandi. That was a wise move-he co-founded Strada Properties and then later sold the company near the peak of the market in 2005.

An avid surfer, he lives on the beach in West Newport with his wife, Christy, and five children. In 2011, he helped start Arbor Real Estate, a boutique company specializing in coastal properties. And his best friend is surfwear guru Bob Hurley, who lives a few doors down. But as good as life was, Brigandi knew many kids in his community didn’t have a sense of some of life’s harsh realities. So during the holidays three years ago, he helped arrange for the Newport Harbor baseball players he coached to have a hands-on experience helping children in need. Gathering at Hurley International’s headquarters on Costa Mesa’s West Side, the 7- to 12-year-olds stuffed 250 backpacks with shoes, jackets and nonperishable food, then handed them over to Share Our Selves, a local poverty relief organization. It was an eye-opener for young players to learn there were homeless children living in motels or just barely surviving—just minutes from the beach. “Our kids have way more than they need,” he says. “They don’t realize just a mile from their home, there are people on the edge of poverty.”

The informal giveaway program—it doesn’t even have a name—now takes place in January because Brigandi quickly realized that local children need assistance long after the holidays. This year, his crew is made up of more than 100 youth. And they help maintain a gift wall at Share Our Selves, where children can pluck presents from the wall for their birthday. “This,” he notes, “is all part of the thread of who I want my kids to be.”