Esther Kang

With shuffleboard tournament, childhood friends mobilize businesses across South Bay to benefit Autism Speaks

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Matthew Vargas and Clayton Munoz. Courtesy of Clayton Munoz

Matthew Vargas and Clayton Munoz. Courtesy of Clayton Munoz

One night during spring break last month, two 22-year-old students sat at a bar, throwing ideas around.

Under the dim lighting inside The Hangar Inn in Manhattan Beach, Clayton Munoz, a Rancho Palos Verdes native, and his childhood buddy Sunha Kim were brainstorming ways to service their lifelong community of the South Bay when Munoz thought of his two little cousins Shane, 4, and Aiden, 3. Both have autism, a neurodevelopment disorder that impairs verbal and nonverbal communication.

They left the bar that night with a mission: to organize a shuffleboard tournament (they’re both enthusiasts) and raise $20,000 for Autism Speaks, a national advocacy organization that sponsors research and works to raise awareness in communities. They enlisted Munoz’s high school classmate Matthew Vargas and began reaching out to local businesses to gage their interest. It didn’t take long for them to be moved by the outpour of enthusiastic support.

So was born the inaugural 2014 Shuffleboard Open, a three-day event that will take place this weekend at The Hangar Inn in Manhattan Beach. Two-member teams may choose to play Saturday or Sunday, and the top two teams from each day will advance to the finals on Monday. The winning team will receive the honor of donating all the prize money in their name.

Sunha Kim. Photo by Ben Danner

Sunha Kim. Photo by Ben Danner

“We’re literally just three guys who want to make a difference in the community,” said Kim, a graduate student studying religion at Harvard University. “It’s been really remarkable. We really had no expectation going into this.”

Since the team kicked off its efforts last month, more than 30 businesses across the South Bay have contributed to the cause by way of sponsorship and donations. They’ve already curated a slew of raffle prizes for the event, including a $1,120-valued golf outing for four at the Trump National Golf Course in Ranchos Palos Verdes, tickets to the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, an infrared sauna therapy session at Per Sauna in Redondo and boogie boards from ET Surf in Hermosa Beach.

Dean Moss, tournament host and owner of The Hangar Inn, called the tournament “historic” not only for his bar but for the community at large.

“This event gives a small glimpse into all the positive change that the South Bay business community can create throughout the area,” Moss said. “Above all, we will be bringing greater awareness to a deserving cause. I hope that we here in the South Bay can serve as an example for other communities to emulate.”

This is only the beginning for the team of old friends. They envision the tournament growing every year and becoming a staple charity event in the community.

“I want our cousins to know that it’s okay they’re different and that they have support,” Munoz said.

 Pre-registration, available at shuffleboardopen.com, is not required. Walk-in teams may participate for $10 per person.