Balboa Island resident Eric Pepys loved a lot of things about his life. His wife Shirley, his four children and six grandkids topped the list.
Shirley and Eric met in Newport Beach in 1960, married and started their family in Corona del Mar. After a few years living out of the area, they returned to Balboa Island for good in 1993.
Eric was crazy about golf – and played often with friends including two of his favorite pals, Frank Robitaille and George Rach.
Then there was his love for supporting foster youth. Eric and Shirley had cared for their son Max since the age of 2 and adopted him in to their family when he was 9 years old. It was a passion the two shared, and they became long-time supporters and key leaders of Orangewood Children’s Foundation and its critical programs devoted to giving foster children the love and support they need to thrive despite the odds.
One of Eric’s most cherished experiences as an Orangewood supporter came when he sponsored a young college scholarship student, Kyle Price. Eric and Kyle forged a personal bond that changed both their lives, and thanks to Eric’s support, Kyle successfully graduated from college with an advanced degree. Through their special relationship, Eric’s belief that through education, foster children are able to find a safe, protective sanctuary in which they can thrive, was solidified.
A little-known fact is that among foster teens at least 70 percent express a desire to go to college. However, only 10 percent ever do and of those, less than 2 percent graduate.
When Eric passed away unexpectedly in 2009, his friends and family decided it was only fitting to start a tradition in his honor that would combine two of his favorite things in life – golf and supporting Orangewood. With Frank and Gus leading the pack, the Annual Eric Pepys Memorial Golf Tournament was born in celebration of a man who gave so much to so many.
Proceeds from the tournament are specially earmarked to support the Advanced Studies Scholarship Fund – which Eric personally witnessed as being able to transform the lives of former foster youth with a connection to Orangewood who have gone on to receive college degrees and want to pursue advanced studies as Kyle did.
With the help of Orangewood college scholarships, hundreds of Orange County foster teens are achieving their dreams of a college education. Thanks in part to the funds raised at the Eric Pepys Memorial Tournament, those who desire to pursue advanced degrees are now able to receive financial help.
To date, the event has raised more than $116,000 which has been used to provide scholarships for fourteen students, two of which have even gone on to graduate work at Harvard University. Talk about beating the odds!
This year’s event, the 3rd Annual Eric Pepys Memorial Golf Tournament and Summer Party will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the Santa Ana Country Club. Though the golf tourney is already sold out, there are still tickets available for the Summer Party which is held immediately following the tournament and features a cocktail reception, a silent auction filled to the brim with fun and exclusive items, as well as dinner.
Shirley Pepys remains an active Emeritus member of Orangewood’s Board of Directors and Eric’s daughter Renee Pepys Lowe (who was nice enough to call me from Italy to talk about the event), also now serves on the Board.
“I think my dad would be very proud and humbled to see how his friends and family have come together to create an annual tournament dedicated in his name to carrying on a cause that meant so much to him,” she said. “Because of the legacy he helped create and now inspires, more foster students than ever will go on to higher education.”
Tickets for the Summer Party can be purchased by contacting Jeff Gilstrap at Orangewood Children’s Foundation at 714-619-0237 or [email protected] To learn more about the Advanced Studies Scholarship Fund, visit www.orangewoodfoundation.org.