New and Improved Chris Culliver

culliver - CopyNelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Such change begins with individuals, and becomes all the more important for influential role models like sports star Chris Culliver. Last year, we reported on Culliver’s Super Bowl Media Day interview that included widely-publicized derogatory remarks about the gay community. John Chen, the founder and team captain of the San Francisco Bay Crash football team for gay men said, in part, at the time: “We hope that Chris Culliver takes this experience as an opportunity to learn.”

Culliver did just that, and recently took time to discuss the matter, as well as his life over these past several months, in an exclusive interview with the San Francisco Bay Times. He told us that he visited the headquarters of The Trevor Project and did a training workshop with some of the leaders of the organization. “I learned about the trials and tribulations affecting the community,” he said, adding, “I made some friends and committed to being a mentor and volunteer for the organization.”

We asked him to share his thoughts about athletes, like NBA basketball star Jason Collins of the Brooklyn Nets and football defensive end Michael Sam, publicly coming out. Culliver said, “I applaud Michael and Jason for their courage. I have absolutely no problem playing and interacting with someone from the LGBTQ community and look forward to connecting with Michael soon on some projects.”

Do you believe that Culliver has, as he indicates, undergone a change of heart? Think again about education- both in the classroom and via experiences- being a powerful tool, and about how it has impacted you and others. Culliver had a difficult start in life. Raised by a single mother, he experienced the trauma of having his stepfather and a cousin shot to death. His mother was also wounded. He rose out of poverty, working hard to cultivate his talent. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers right out of the University of South Carolina, Culliver is now just 25 years old. He is reaching out to the LGBT community as he learns more about us. It is now up to us to non-judgmentally try to learn more about him, and about others who come from backgrounds that may be different from our own.

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Growing up, Culliver could not have any pets. He told us, “My interest in animals began when I was little. I had a huge interest in pets, but could not have any types of animals in the house, but I was naturally a huge lover.” As soon as he could, he adopted several dogs and has also had pet ferrets. His interest in animals, as well as child welfare, led to The Chris Culliver Foundation. It was founded last year, he said, “as a way to support the better treatment of animals in inner city communities around the country. Also, we hope to encourage youths and adults in need to use animals as companions and advocate for better protection of them.”

He continued, “The foundation stands firm in opposition of dog fighting and any forms of animal cruelty. The foundation has supported Guide Dogs for the Blind in the past, and we are currently seeking organizations to support with similar values as ours. We plan to hold a clinic at the Hunter’s Point YMCA and develop mobile stations to go to inner city communities around the world and treat animals for medical issues and promote healthy living practices with animals.”

In recognition of his efforts, the SF SPCA organization Critter Lovers at Work (CLAW) recently announced that it is honoring Culliver with its Champion of Compassion award. Culliver will accept the award at the 18th Annual Bark & Whine Ball in San Francisco next week. All proceeds from the evening, which is CLAW’s single largest fundraising event, benefit the SF SPCA’s Cinderella Fund. This fund restores the health of the most severely injured and unwell homeless animals of the SF SPCA by paying for the cost of top-notch medical care.

Last year, more than 400 guests and 200 of their furry companions attended the event. This year’s ball will include music by DJ Dave Kim, premium wines from Boisset Wine Living, delectable food by McCalls Catering, a live and silent auction featuring unique and exciting items plus experiences and, of course, the city’s a-list dogs.

“Hosting the Bark & Wine Ball in support of the Cinderella Fund is the highlight of our year,” notes CLAW president Judy Ranzer. “Not only do we all participate in saving lives at the Bark & Whine Ball, we also get to put on our finest attire and have an enchanted evening with friends.”

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Commenting on the Champion of Compassion award, Culliver told the Bay Times: “I want to thank all of the people of the SPCA for honoring me and I would love for all of you to support my mission of providing safety and welfare for animals in the inner city. Please learn more about my foundation by visiting chrisculliver29.com. Also, please come out and support me on April 5th at 10am at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds for my first fundraising event. I plan to have a dog show, some kids’ games, and some of my teammates will come out for autographs and a good time.”

Culliver is also looking forward to the 49ers’ upcoming season. In August of last year, he tore a knee ligament during team drills at a training camp. After undergoing surgery, he was out for the entire 2013 season. But that was then and this is now.

“I just want our fans to know that we are putting every effort in winning and getting a Super Bowl ring,” he said. “As for me, I have been working all year on training and becoming better as an athlete and as a person, and I truly thank all of your readers for the support and for the forgiveness.”

18th Annual Bark & Whine Ball

March 13, 2014, at 6:30 pm

Fort Mason Center,
Festival Pavilion,
San Francisco

For tickets and additional information, please phone 415-522-3535 or visit www.clawsf.org