Junior Giants: 20 Years of Impact
Since 1994, the Junior Giants, the flagship program of the Giants Community Fund, has offered a free, non-competitive and innovative baseball program for boys and girls ages 5-18 years old. The program now reaches 21,000 kids in 90 communities.
In the 20 years since being established, the Junior Giants Program has:
Through the 20 for 20 Series, we are proud to share stories of the kids, coaches, families and communities that have helped to build this program.
The Harmon and Sue Burns Scholarship not only provided Jannelle Watson the resources to help her get into college - it also turned her into a leader. Jannelle says the Junior Giants gave her the boost of confidence she needed to run for and win elected positions at University of California, Irvine. She excelled in leadership roles in the Black Student Union, Nigerian Student Association and mentored fellow students as a peer academic advisor and teaching assistant. After graduating with degrees in political science and education, Jannelle was selected as a White House intern and placed in the Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington, DC and selected as 2013/14 Executive Fellow through the Capital Fellows Program. Recently, Jannelle was hired as a Small Business Policy Analyst in Governor Jerry Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development where she will serve as an advocate for California's small business community.
Walt and Barbara have been involved with the San Jose PAL Junior Giants since 1994, offering an opportunity for both children and adults with special needs to participate in the Junior Giants program. Their son is special needs and has enjoyed the program for more than 20 years. The Velasquez family has known many of the San Jose PAL team members for most of their lives, and each season Barbara manages sign-ups for players as young as three and as old as 67. The friendly, non-competitive nature makes for fun times and a 90 percent player return rate. Walt is especially proud of the commitment he's received from all of his volunteers each year. Together, Walt and Barbara were inducted into the Junior Giants Hall of Fame in 2013 for their longstanding community commitment, love of the program and leadership.
Mike has been a fixture in the Mt. Shasta community, serving as the Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks District Administrator for over 40 years. He began the Mt. Shasta Junior Giants League in 1995, and is currently celebrating his 20th year as commissioner. During his tenure, the league has thrived with steady growth and an average of 125 participants. The Mt. Shasta League has proudly supported five Harmon & Sue Burns Scholars. Mike is an avid Giants fan who shares his passion for the sport of baseball and commitment to the Junior Giants core program values through his lifelong dedication to community service.
After playing in the Morgan Hill Junior Giants League and receiving the Harmon and Sue Burns Scholarship, Cristina Avina went on to coach and motivate young players in the league, an experience that inspired her current career goals. As a student at University of Southern California (class of 2016), she is working toward becoming an occupational therapist specializing in animal-assisted therapy for children with emotional issues. She has also found time between classes to participate in Hermanas Unidads and Destino, while also volunteering with USC's Spirits in Action and Dreampower Horsemanship. She is currently serving as a Junior Giants Ambassador in the Salinas league. She often says that "being involved in all these activities has come to shape the person I am today and the person I will become because they all form a part of what I want to do in my future. It's kind of like a puzzle, all these programs and all the people in my life form a small puzzle piece of my life and am grateful to have every piece."