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Embrace's Blog

Friday, 22 September 2017 17:13

Media Alert: 3 September Game Changer Events

Creating Safe Space for Dialogue Between CommYOUnity & Law Enforcement Through Sports
Are you a Game Changer?
Embrace will be hosting 3 Game Changer events in September featuring San Diego District Attorney, Summer Stephan, San Diego County Chief Probation Officer, Adolfo Gonzales and San Diego Community College District Police Chief Raymund Aguirre.
Game Changer events consist of focus groups between community, law enforcement, members of the justice system and elected officials for respectful, informative dialogue to address problems and solutions in the community, 3 hours before local sports team game/entertainment events. Once the focus group concludes, all participants attend the San Diego Padres or USD football game together to bond and connect as fellow citizens.
WHO:     EMBRACE is a San Diego-based, 501 C 3 nonprofit organization that utilizes multi-cultural college student volunteers to serve less fortunate members of veteran and civilian communities. The organization is built on the philosophy that serving less fortunate members of society brings people together, irrespective of race, religion or sexual orientation.
WHEN:     Monday, September 18, 2017 4:00pm – 8:00pm
                 Tuesday, September 19, 2017 4:00pm – 8:00pm
                      Saturday, September 23, 2017 11:00am – 3:00pm
WHERE  All events take place in San Diego, CA
September 18, Sempra Energy Building: 
488 8th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 
September 19, San Diego Convention Center:
111 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
September 23, USD 
5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110
Thank You to Our Sponsors: 
Thursday, 10 August 2017 18:59

Game Changer Program Receives Local Government Funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                          Media Contact
Embrace PR
Game Changer Program Receives Local Government Funding 
San Diego Police Department heads recent group of entities 
to invest in the Community Engagement Model
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (August 9, 2017) – Nonprofit organization Embrace has received additional funding for the recently launched Game Changer program. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) recently awarded the program with a $24,500 grant to support operations and costs associated with implementation and expansion in San Diego, CA. SDPD joined a growing list of investors in the 8-month-old program that includes Alliance Healthcare Foundation (AHF), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), San Diego County, the Urban League of San Diego County and the San Diego Police Officers Association, totaling $37,500.
Game Changer 2017 Informational Video
Game Changer utilizes sport/entertainment events to create safe space for dialogue and understanding between law enforcement, members of the judicial and legislative branches of local government and lay members of the community. Rooted in behavioral psychology, Game Changer is designed to bring about changes in perception, leading to changes in behavior, leading to a greater number of peaceful outcomes. The model provides education to participants while increasing understanding, familiarity, comfort and a greater sense of human connection through time spent communicating during the focus group, followed by socializing at a sporting/entertainment event.
“We are proud to support Embrace through the SAFE San Diego initiative. Game Changer is helping to generate new ideas and form meaningful connections that in turn help create safer communities,” said Penney Newell, SDG&E Senior Community Relations Manager.
San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman added, “Sports bring us all together and unite us around a common goal much like the Game Changer program. With Game Changer, we are able to open lines of communication and strengthen the bonds we share with our community. The relationships we build carry out into the field to help keep San Diego safe”.
Since December, 2016, Embrace has hosted over 160 participants at 13 Game Changer events. Seven Game Changer events are scheduled for the month of August, 2017, with several additional events in September, 2017 thanks to multiple community partners which includes ticket donations from the San Diego Padres, Fox Sports and Tickets for Kids Charities.
For more information on Game Changer and future events please visit
Friday, 19 May 2017 17:15

Fox Sports Game Changer Segment Online

Fox Sports Game Changer Segment Online

Media Contact

Embrace PR


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We're happy to announce that anyone can check out the entire FOX Sports San Diego #GameChanger Segments (no commercials) in the links below. Thank you Tom Catlin for thinking enough of our work to feature it so prominently. Thank you to Nancy Worlie and Tom Karlo for allowing lift off at KPBS. Thank you to Nancy Sasaki Elizabeth S. Dreicer and Alliance Healthcare Foundation for responding to our responsive grant request. Thank you to Matt Soria for allowing #GameChanger to launch at Aztec Basketball - SDSU games! #ItTakesAVillage


Game Changer Pt. 1:

Game Changer Part 2:

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 23:33


Police/Community Relations model that utilizes sports will be featured on
“Inside San Diego Sports”
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Thursday, May 11, 2017) – On Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 10:30pm PST, Fox Sports San Diego (FSSD) will air a 30 minute television show featuring Game Changer, the Police/Community relations model program created by Embrace. Air times and cable provider channels can be found below.
(All times are Pacific Standard Time)
Tuesday, May 16, 2017: 10:30 pm or following the Padres postgame show
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 : 3:00am, 8:30am, 1:30pm, 6:00pm and 10:30pm
Thursday, May 18, 2017: 4:00pm
Friday, May 19, 2017: 6:00pm and 11:30pm
Saturday, May 20, 2017: 9:30am
Sunday, May 21, 2017: 5:30pm
AT&T U-verse: 776 and 1776 (HD)
Cox: San Diego: 56 and 1056 (HD) Las Vegas: 96 and 1096 (HD)
Tucson: 73 and 1073 (HD)
DIRECTV: 694 (SD and HD)
Dish: 408 & 439 HD
Time Warner Cable: San Diego: 61 and 322; El Centro: 20 and 322
Desert Cities/Desert Hot Springs: 76 and 322; Yuma: 70 and 322; Hawaii: 227
Verizon: 80 and 580 (HD) *launching
Game Changer utilizes sports to create safe space for dialogue and understanding between police officers and lay members of the community. Game Changer is a response to the many instances of often-preventable violence between law enforcement and members of the community, particularly communities of color.
To donate to Embrace click here
The model is rooted in behavioral psychology and educates while increasing understanding, familiarity, comfort and a greater sense of human connection through time spent communicating about issues and solutions. Data is collected before and after each event to measure changes in perception. The focus groups occur 3 hours before the start of a sporting/entertainment event and last for approximately 2.75 hours.
Once the focus groups conclude, all participants immediately attend the sporting/entertainment event to bond, continue conversing and spend quality human time together while rooting on the home team. Game Changer aims to bring about changes in perception, leading to changes in behavior, leading to a greater number of peaceful outcomes.
For more information on Game Changer and future events please visit
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 16:56

Alliance Healthcare Foundation Provides Embrace’s Game Changer Program with $25,000 Grant

Alliance Healthcare Foundation Provides Embrace’s Game Changer
Program with $25,000 Grant
Responsive Grant funds will further develop Police/Community Wellness Model 
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (March 21, 2017) – Embrace recently received a $25,000 Responsive Grant from Alliance Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to assist with the development of the Game Changer model. Game Changer utilizes sports to create safe space for dialogue and understanding between police officers and lay members of the community. According to the Alliance Healthcare Foundation website, the criteria to receive Responsive Grants include: target population, evidence base for program design, geographic location of program, strengths and weaknesses in request, and budget, among others. Responsive grants may be: time-sensitive, a novel funding opportunity or leadership & organizational development-based.
San Diego Union Tribune Newspaper Game Changer Video
“Alliance Healthcare Foundation is excited to participate with Game Changer as we explore ways to impact health and wellness through violence reduction,” said Alliance Healthcare Foundation Executive Director, Nancy Sasaki. “Game Changer is a powerful way to reconnect as humans with respect and understanding by hearing each other’s story and creating positive shared experiences.”
Game Changer events have occurred every month at San Diego State University since the program launched on December 12, 2016. Additional events are scheduled to occur with the San Diego Padres during the months of April and May 2017. The number of events and where they occur beyond May, 2017 will depend upon funding and additional partners that include high schools, universities and professional sports teams.
“We deeply appreciate AHF’s support that addresses an age-old societal issue in an innovative, unifying manner,” said Embrace Founder and Game Changer creator, Sean Sheppard. Early efficacy results lead us to believe that the program’s immediate and foreseeable future is extremely bright.”
For more information on Game Changer and future events please visit
Saturday, 11 March 2017 00:18


San Diegan seeks change through dialogue, sports

Sean Sheppard, founder of Game Changer, brings groups to bond over the Aztecs at Viejas Arena after hosting frank focus-group discussions about thorny topics such as law enforcement and the judicial system. (Hayne Palmour IV U-T)
Sean Sheppard was sitting outside his neighborhood Starbucks when he saw it. Someone had scratched a swastika on surface of the metal cafe table where he was enjoying the sun and talking about his latest venture. And as the community advocate usually does when something disturbs him, Sheppard looked at an outrage and saw an opportunity.

“Whoever drew that, I would beg them to come to a Game Changer event,” the 48-year-old Clairemont resident said, pointing at the crudely carved symbol lurking amidst the coffee-cup rings. “When I step out of my home, I give people the benefit of the doubt that they are decent human beings despite our history and despite what you see on social media. Game Changer is about proactively bringing about our best American selves, or at least taking steps to do it.”
Click on San Diego Union Tribune Video - Making A Difference 
Formed in response to the fear and anger Sheppard felt after the 2015 rash of fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers, Game Changer brings members of law enforcement and the judicial system together with elected officials and community members for frank focus-group discussions about such thorny issues as racism, stop-and-frisk, misconceptions about the police and people of color.

And when the stories have been shared, the issues have been aired and the pre- and post-discussion survey forms have been filled out, all of the attendees leave the KPBS meeting room and head off to Viejas Arena for an Aztecs men’s basketball game. Which is where some of the biggest changes can happen.
To donate to Embrace click here

“I know that my world view was shaped by the fact that I have been around white, black, Latino, Asian and gay people all my life, and I knew that I had to create an environment for that type of phenomenon to take place. And I knew that sports was something that did that,” said Sheppard, who was the director of strength and conditioning for Olympic sports at Ohio State University.

“With Game Changer, you see people who may have been at odds an hour before, and now they’re watching the game and laughing and talking about their kids or how they like the same kind of bourbon. That’s what breaks down barriers. That’s what changes perceptions and that’s what changes behaviors. It’s hard to mistreat someone you like.”

Raised in South Brunswick, N.J., Sheppard did his undergraduate work at Georgetown University and got his graduate degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports psychology at San Diego State. He had some problems with drinking and smoking pot along the way, but after finding spiritual and psychological redemption by volunteering with the Salvation Army, Sheppard founded Embrace in 2003.

With Embrace, Sheppard helped rally thousands of college students to feed and clothe the homeless, collect food and water for survivors of natural disasters and repair homes for low-income and disabled veterans. The “Embrace the Streets” feeding-the-homeless program ended last summer, but the “Healing Our Heroes’ Homes” house-rehabilitation program just finished its 11th project. Embrace is holding a “Stretch 4 Vets” yoga fundraising event aboard the Battleship USS Iowa Museum in Los Angeles on April 8.

His years with Embrace made Sheppard an expert in the power of teamwork and unity. It also showed him the importance of knowing the right people in the right places. When it came time to take Game Changer from concept to reality, Sheppard knew he needed to get the San Diego Police Department on board. Fortunately, he was already on great terms with the person who could make it happen.

Sheppard met San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman a few years ago at a dinner honoring the Rev. Henry Rodriguez Jr., the San Diego Police Department chaplain and longtime St. Jude Shrine of the West pastor who died last August. Zimmerman is an Ohio State alumna and a rabid Buckeyes fan, so when she discovered that Sheppard was a strength trainer at her alma mater, a friendship was born.

The two kept in touch, and Zimmerman was his first booster. She got the San Diego Police Officers Association on board, Sheppard rounded up partners — including Uber, San Diego State and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity — and Game Changer was ready to play.

“The first time I met Sean, we talked about how sports was such a great equalizer,” Zimmerman said. “So a couple of years go by, and we go to lunch and he starts telling me about bringing the community and the police together and using sports to break down those barriers, and I said, ‘I love it.’

“Even if you don’t have anything else in common, if you have a love of sports, you can bond as fans. And then you start learning that you have a lot in common once you have an everyday conversation. Sports do bring people together.”

When the first Game Changer gathering was held last December, Sheppard did not know how his grand experiment would go. Would the 20 participants — 10 police officers and 10 community members — be willing to speak their minds? Would the resulting conversations be helpful? And could people put their differences aside long enough to listen?

The answer to all of the above was, “Yes.” And now that Sheppard has wrapped up his fourth Game Changer meeting — one where community members talked about frightening encounters with police officers, police officers talked about the life-and-death pressures of the job, and people from both sides bonded over their love of Hawaii — he is sure there will be more progress to come.

His goals include expanding the Game Changer program to include other sporting events and maybe some concerts. He would love to bring it to other cities. And once the data from the participants’ pre- and post-meeting surveys are collected and processed by Cal State Fullerton, Sheppard hopes that personal revelations can lead to public change.

“They say all politics is local, but I say it is also individual. Town halls have their purposes, but they don’t provide an opportunity for everybody to speak and be listened to. When we have regular interactions with each other and start seeing one another as people, that is how we see changes in society across the board. Exposure cannot help but bring about change.”

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Saturday, 11 March 2017 00:09


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                       Media Contact
Embrace PR
One Thousand yogis including college students, active military and veterans invited on the Los Angeles based Battleship to raise money for disabled veteran home remodel program
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (March 7, 2017) – On Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 9am, nonprofit organization Embrace, and CorePower Yoga will host Stretch 4 Vets IV to raise money for Embrace’s Healing Our Heroes’ Homes program which remodels the homes of disabled veteran home owners. The fundraising event that utilizes yoga debuted on the USS Midway in November of 2015, before Stretch 4 Vets II took place at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington DC in July, 2016. Stretch 4 Vets III attracted over 500 yogis and raised approximately $25,000.
To register for Stretch 4 Vets visit:
“Planning our first event in Los Angeles with the USS Iowa and CorePower leadership is proving to be an exciting endeavor,” said Embrace Founder, Sean Sheppard. “The LA market in general is known for its strong yoga community so we are anticipating a great turnout, great vibes and a fantastic event.”
Stretch 4 Vets III VIDEO, San Diego, 2016
The event will be led by Los Angeles CorePower Yoga area leaders Ali Johansen, Inanna Jessup, Stephanie Solovy and Charlotte Munn. Proceeds will support Embrace’s Healing Our Heroes’ Homes program that remodels the homes of disabled veteran home owners.
To donate to Embrace click here.
Stretch 4 Vets II occurred at the Navy Memorial in Washington DC, July 2016
Thanks to:  
Wednesday, 21 December 2016 22:24


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                Media Contact
Embrace PR
San Diego Police Chief & San Diego Police Officers Association Assist with Creation of Behavioral Psychology-Based model
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (December 20, 2016) – On Monday, December 12, 2016, nonprofit organization Embrace launched their much anticipated Game Changer program that utilizes sports to create safe space for dialogue and understanding between police officers and lay members of the community.   Almost 2 years in the making, Game Changer is a response to the many instances of often-preventable violence between law enforcement and members of communities of color around the nation.  The model is rooted in behavioral psychology aimed to educate while increasing understanding, familiarity, comfort and a greater sense of human connection through time spent communicating during the focus group and socializing at a sporting event to bring about changes in perception, leading to changes in behavior, leading to a greater number of peaceful outcomes. 
Plain clothed officers & community members during focus group & SDSU Men’s Basketball game
Top photo by: Tony Zaragoza
A diverse group of 7 lay members of the community and 7 San Diego Police officers met at KPBS television station 3 hours before the San Diego State University Men’s Basketball team took on Alabama State University at Viejas Arena to participate in a moderated focus group to discuss causes and solutions to violent and/or fatal interactions involving law enforcement.  All participants attended the basketball game following time spent together during the focus group that was civil, animated, and, at times, tense. All participants filled out pre and post surveys that measured changes in perceptions before and after the event. Cal State Fullerton will process survey data and provide a comprehensive report. 
San Diego Police Chief explains the birth & purpose of Game Changer
Gina Tang, artist and mother of 3 had this to offer after the event: “The impact of sitting in a circle, as an equal, beside law enforcement officers having open dialogue around shared concern for an issue, is such that today, when I saw a police car in the street beside me, my conditioned low-level anxiety response had disappeared.  Game Changer is definitely on to something here.”

To donate to Embrace click here

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and San Diego Police Officers Association President Brian Marvel were on hand to deliver opening remarks.  San Diego Christian College Psychology Department Chair, Dr. Elizabeth Stanton (PhD in Clinical Psychology, 15 years of Group Process experience) and San Diego Fire Department Captain Jason Shanley (31 years of Group Process experience) co-moderated the 2.5-hour focus group.  San Diego State University Office of Diversity and Kappa Sigma fraternity were fiscal sponsors. Uber sponsored round trip transportation for all participants while Chipotle and Starbucks were food and beverage sponsors.  
Lay members of the community and plain clothed police officers at the first Game Changer event
Photo by: Tony Zaragoza
The most surreal portion of the model may well have been after the focus group concluded when participants spent time with one another at the Aztecs men’s basketball game.  Participants who may have previously been at odds with one another, spent the better part of two hours socializing during the game, taking selfies and making plans to continue communicating beyond the event. 
San Diego Police Sgt. Richard Cox flanked by SDSU Professor Crystal English and entrepreneur Ken Kuczwaj
Photo by: Tony Zaragoza
“This is a start of real and honest conversations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.  I would love to continue to be a part of this group.  It was a great experience and I know the next event will be even greater,” offered San Diego Police Officer Akaan Thomas.
Future Game Changer events will occur in 2017.
For more information on Game Changer and future events please visit

About Embrace

Founded in 2000, Embrace uses community service to bring diverse groups of people together to bring about social wellness in our society. The organization focuses on the utilization of college students and recent graduates to develop their leadership qualities and remedy community problems such as health disparities and homelessness on a volunteer basis. Founder Sean Sheppard's ultimate goal is to bring about legislation that makes community service mandatory for all college students that attend state funded institutions of higher education.
For more information on Embrace, visit
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