T.J. SIMERS

Jim and Shannon Mora make a difference in children's lives

UCLA football coach and his wife are launching a foundation in Los Angeles, just as they have done in other cities.

  • Pin It

We agreed to meet at the Kettle in Manhattan Beach.

I arrived early so I could remove the knives from the table.

I had never met Shannon Mora, but she's the wife of UCLA football Coach Jim Mora so I could only imagine.

First thing I wanted to know: "Are you forced to put everything in the form of a question at home?"

"No, I comment, make statements and question," Shannon said.

"He doesn't allow me to do that," I explained.

"But you're not sleeping with him," she said, and I guess I had just never given any thought that someone did.

We laughed because we share something in common: We both like Jim Mora. Shocking, I know, but she said she does.

"Jim and I dated for 10 years," Shannon said, and I told her I wasn't surprised it took so long to warm to him.

They've been married 22 years, she guessed, maintaining it's Jim's job to count the years. It's just more natural for the scoreboard watcher to keep track.

I go back 27 years with Mora to when he wasn't married, worked for the Chargers, was fun-loving and nothing like the starched shirt he is behind a microphone now.

I said I found her husband a worthy sparring partner.

"I know this," she said. "No matter how it goes, he doesn't come home and kick the dog."

"Do you own a dog?" I said.

"No," she said.

Later we would argue about what it takes to be a coach and she explained how some people could become better sports columnists. I got the impression as she took over the conversation that if she told her husband to go over the wall at practice he would.

But, like her husband, she was also just busting with energy and a passion to make a difference. And I got the impression it would be best if I did not interrupt.

"We want to better the lives of children in need and empower them to reach their dreams," she gushed, and gushed really didn't cover her enthusiasm.

A moment later she was choking up as she talked about a young girl fighting cancer who had plans of going to her prom if only she had an appropriate dress.

"We were working on the dress, but she didn't make it," Shannon said. "I don't cry, I really don't. But do you know what it's like to make a difference in a child's life?"

They have already done that. They did it in Atlanta, starting the Count on Me Family Foundation while Mora worked as the Falcons' head coach. The foundation work there continues.

They did it in Seattle when Mora served as the Seahawks' head coach. Mora left but the foundation is still making a difference in the community.

There is a continuing need for funding, the work continuing with Saturday's foundation launch in Los Angeles.

"Can't wait to see where you take the foundation next after Los Angeles," I cracked, and Shannon chuckled, a mother of four who had just orchestrated the family move to Southern California not about to be rattled.

In fact, I'd feel a lot better the next time a decision has to be made to go for it or kick the long field goal if Shannon was the one making it.

But right now there are far more important things to accomplish, money to be raised and kids to be helped.

She has already identified 40 local youngsters in need and will bring them to Saturday's UCLA football practice to listen to her husband talk.

I suggested the youngsters have probably suffered enough, but Shannon had already moved on to talking about the May 20 golf tournament at Riviera Country Club.

"There's nothing funner," she said, and I know what it's like to correct a Mora so I let it go. "I'm not big on the whole fuss made over celebrities, but it provides a platform to help others by raising money."

Shannon's sister, Whittney, has Down syndrome.

"I grew up in a house with a special-needs person, but that was my sister and it's the way we lived," she said. "There was a certain normalcy to it.

"I liked Special Olympics but not because Whittney was different, but because, wow, she got a chance to do things that other people did. Now we have the chance to help other kids feel the same way."

She said everyone is invited to help at countonmefoundation.org, including USC fans. After all, they are usually richer.

"I have met some really nice USC fans," she said. "There are no boundaries when it comes to helping children."

The golf tournament is sold out, but she said, "for $1,000 a company can be a tee sponsor, which will let folks know they want to make a difference in someone's life."

Golfers will also have the opportunity to win Jim Mora autographed footballs. In addition to the consolation prizes, I'll try to find out what the winners receive.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

  • Pin It

Local & National Video