Children of Chernobyl Foundation logo
Maria Sharapova - provides inspiration, hope, and sponsorship to children from the Chernobyl region.
The year 2007 was a very special year for our foundation. We began our summer program with the opportunity to meet the famous and talented tennis player, Maria Sharapova, at the Acura Classic Tennis Tournament in La Costa. We ended the year with a generous donation from the Maria Sharapova Foundation, which will fund 10 new needy children to visit San Diego for health respite vacations in 2008.

The “Meet and Greet” event was organized by Maria's agent, Max Eisenbud, Vice President of IMG Tennis, and Gina Clement, Senior Manager of Communications and Publications, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Max, Gina, and their team members were extremely gracious and helpful in assisting our group's attendance at the “Meet and Greet,” as well as Maria's first match two days later. Our foundation appreciates everything that they did to allow this wonderful event to take place.

At the time of our 1st meeting, Maria was ranked No. 2 in the world, and was surprised to find out that all of the visiting children not only knew of her, but also admired her. The visiting children had the privilege of spending time with Maria in the form of a personal “Meet and Greet“ which was arranged by Maria's staff. With the beautiful La Costa Resort as a backdrop, the children gathered around Maria, who spoke to them in Russian, their native language. With Maria's friendly smile and easy-going demeanor, she fielded questions from the young visitors. Maria remarked, "They had all these questions lined up for me. The kids are pretty young and the questions they were asking me were so mature and so beyond their years," she said. "This young kid asked me how I wanted to raise my children. I was like, 'Geez, you're a kid yourself. It was very strange."

As the children chattered about how much fun they were having at pool parties and the beach, Maria reflected on the simple things of life. "I still love things that you don't even need to pay for," she said. "Going to the beach and being around five of your friends and having a good time means so much more than going out and spending hundreds of dollars. It did make me realize that, 'Wow, all these small things are making them happy.'"

Maria emphasized how important it is to believe in yourself, have goals, and follow your dreams. She showed her compassion for the children who were not as fortunate as she was, stating "It's tough because most of them don't have any parents, and what's really helped me in my life was having my mom and dad be so supportive and around me," she said. As a special parting gift, Maria took the time to personally autograph a T-shirt and visor for each participating child. The T-shirts and visors were generously donated by Nike.

During the “Meet and Greet,” Maria invited the group of children and host parents to her first match, which took place on August 1, 2007. With the help of Gina Clement, in charge of public relations, our group was given complimentary tickets. To the children's astonishment, Maria and her team arranged for the group of children to be introduced to the crowd of fans prior to the match, and one of the children was honored with the task of tossing the coin that determines which player starts the match. This can be seen in the photograph below. Our foundation greatly appreciated the exposure of our small charity, as the emcee spent several minutes introducing the children and explaining how our foundation brings hope to the children of the Chernobyl region. We were thrilled to see Maria win her first match, and go on to win the tournament.

Maria's family is originally from the city of Gomel, Belarus, which is about hour away from Mozyr, the town where the visiting kids come from. The southern region of Belarus was particularly hit hard after the nuclear explosion, when the prevailing winds shifted, causing 70% of the nuclear fallout to land on the country of Belarus.

Maria's mother, Yelena, was pregnant with her only child when the plant in Ukraine exploded and spewed radioactive clouds over the western Soviet Union.

"A lot of families were moving, but not a lot of them could because they didn't really know where to go," Sharapova told The Associated Press. "My mom's dad happened to be working in Siberia, so that's why we had a sense of direction." Sharapova's father, Yuri, and her mother fled Gomel, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Chernobyl, shortly before she was born in Nyagan, Siberia.

She's never forgotten her roots.

Maria has been busy establishing a scholarship program in Gomel that will allow underprivileged teens to attend the University in Minsk, as well as funding an addition to a local Gomel hospital. She was named a United Nations Ambassador in 2007, after she donated 100,000.00 dollars to eight UN development projects in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. "It's in the beginning stages of what exactly I'm going to be doing," she said. "But I want to visit the facilities that they're building right now for the children's computer labs and hospitals."

Maria plans to visit Gomel as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, in July, after Wimbledon. This will be her first visit to Gomel. Gomel was one of the areas most affected by radiation. Sharapova said she still has family there, including grandparents. Our foundation, with the help of our Belarusian liaisons, plans to send a group of children to Gomel to help celebrate Maria's arrival to the Gomel region. After the thrill of meeting their sponsor in person, the children will face even more excitement as they prepare to leave for the USA the following week.

Maria exemplified our foundation's motto “make a difference in the life of a child” by stating at the end of her interview, "If you're able to help some people and make them smile and make them realize that life is good," she said, "then that's worth so much more than buying a pair of shoes."
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Get to Know 2008's Kids
Rostislav Balakir is being raised by his mother, having lost his father a few years ago. He has an older sister. He likes working with gouache and oil, as well as pencil. Other interests include music and playing the bayan (a type of accordian). He has studied some English at the Art School, and is eager to practice it when he visits San Diego this summer.

read about all of the artists...
We would like to thank those organizations who donate to our program:

We would like to thank those organizations who sponsor art shows:

Hasenstab & Associates
1230 Columbia Street, Suite 1120
San Diego, CA 92101 (map)

Vista Arts Foundation
127 Main Street
Vista, CA 92084 (map)

Vinbladh's Swedish Fusion Cafe
4651 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116 (map)

Girard's Gourmet Cafe
7837 Girard Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037 (map)

San Diego Public Libraries
Mission Valley
San Carlos
Allied Gardens

Ocean Beach People's Co-Op
4765 Voltaire Street
San Diego, CA 92107 (map)

Please support dentists and other practitioners who donate services to the Children of Chernobyl kids:

Dental Support:
Erich Schmidt DDS, 4539 College Ave., San Diego, CA 92115, (619) 286-4122
Richard D. Mohrlock, DDS, 2210 Mesa Drive, Suite 10, Oceanside, CA 92054 (760) 967-977
William David McReynolds, DDS, 817 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014 (858) 792-1044
Jean Chan, DDS, 260 E Chase Ave., Ste 101, El Cajon, CA 92020 (619) 579-2363
Lori Good, DDS, 11616 Iberia Place, San Diego, CA 92128-2404 (858) 676-5000
Sabine Purps, DDS, 1764 San Diego Avenue, Suite 130, San Diego, CA 92110 (619) 295-6500
Dennis R. Marshall, DDS, 119 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024 (760) 753-554
William L. Neff Jr., DDS, 3247 Camino De Los Coches, Carlsbad, CA 92009 (760) 414-9200
Brian J. Casciari, DDS, 9320 Carmel Mountain Rd., Suite A, San Diego, CA 92129-2126 (858) 484-4104
Tim Belnap DDS - 13161 Black Mountain Road, Suite 5, San Diego (858) 484.9202
Steven Byers, DDS, 4403 Marlborough Ave., San Diego, CA 92124 (619) 282-7060
Christy Lam, DDS, 11616 Iberia Place, San Diego, CA 92128-2404 (858) 676-5000
William D. Rawlings, DDS, 1200 Garden View Rd.Ste, 102, Encinitas, CA 92024 (760) 944-5225
Alicia Kennedy, DDS, 7334 Girard Ave, Suite 101, La Jolla, CA 92037, (858) 454-6148
Gary Ewing, DDS
Stephen Munroe D.D.S., 306 Walnut Ave., Suite 38, San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 299-3320
Mina Mafi, D.D.S., 2452 Fenton St., Suite 304, Chula Vista, CA 91914, (619) 656-4343
Anton F. Misleh, D.D.S., 4320 Genesee, Ave., Suite 204, San Diego, CA 92117, (858) 268-1618
David Urich, D.D.S., 125 W. Plaza St., Solana Beach, CA 92075, (858) 350-9977
Heather Adams, D.D.S., 613 Third Ave., Chula Vista, CA 91910, (619) 425-7700
Cyrous Sheikh, D.D.S., 6994 El Camino Real, Ste 101, Carlsbad, CA 92009 (760) 438-1279

Eye Care Support:
Aimee Reasoner, Optician, Eyes for Kids, 7061 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite 206, San Diego, CA, 92111 (858) 495-1488
James W. Cummins, OD, 10225 Austin Drive, Spring Valley, CA 91928 (619) 670-0300
Dr. Edward Brown, Pediatric Ophthalmologist, 3750 Convoy St., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92111, (858) 292-4313

Physicians Support:
Patricia Lundeberg, MD, Sharp Rees-Stealy, 2001 Fourth Ave., San Diego, CA 92129 (858) 837-2819
Thomas Goergen, MD, Radiologist, Gateway Imaging, 15725 Pomerado Rd., Suite 101, Poway, CA 92064 (858) 485-6500
Michelle S. Dern, MD, 477 N. El Camino Real, #B105, Encinitas, CA 92024 (760) 753-7143

Web Support
Justin Beach - Site Assemble Internet Services

Jackie Koop, Visions in Art, 133 Hanes Place, Vista, CA 92084, (760) 724-1469
Aaron Brothers, 10765 Westview Parkway, Mira Mesa, CA 92126 (858) 271-5314

Art Cards and Exhibit Accessories
Premier Image

Office Support
Metrionix, Inc.
Hasenstab & Associates

Flyer Publicity and Graphic Designer
Shannon Fogg
Sophie Lundeberg
Joanna Rew

Art Venues
People's Co-op
Artists Colony 101
Off Track Gallery
Mission Valley Library
Allied Gardens Library
San Carlos Library
Bard Hall – Unitarian Church
Vinbladh's Swedish Fusion Café
Girard Gourmet
Vista Arts Foundation
Hasenstab & Associates

List of Individual and Group Supporters
United Way
Rotary Club of Spring Valley
Legal Nurse Consultants Philanthropic Group (Carol Mills)
La Jolla Community Room
San Diego Police Canine Unit
Peninsula YMCA and Mission Bay Aquatic Center
La Costa Resort & Spa
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour
IMG Tennis
Maria Sharapova
Tony Parzanese Tennis Camp
Rancho Penasquitos Tennis Center
Youth Travel Center, Minsk Belarus
Austrian Airlines
United Airlines
Mary Colosimo, Cookie Lee Jewelry
Trader Joe's, Carmel Mountain

Organizations who provide complimentary admission
Birch Aquarium
San Diego Zoo
Sea World
Pageant of the Masters
The Wave Waterpark

We would like to thank those organizations who donate tickets to our program:
Universal Studios
Belmont Park
Raging Waters Waterpark
IMAX Theatre