A passing of the torch took place last Thursday evening at the LA84 Foundation, as Anita DeFrantz stepped down from her position as president, and handed the reins over to Renata Simril.
In a symbolic gesture, DeFrantz passed the 1984 Olympic torch to Simril, as a crowd of more than 200 people, including politicians, community leaders, and former Olympians, applauded the two women.
“These are two remarkable leaders who shine powerfully, even in this room of distinguished achievers, leaders and individuals who have made their mark over and over again,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“We have a lot to be thankful for when we think about both Anita and Renata,” Ridley Thomas continued. “Los Angeles is endowed with such individuals, and this is simply and example of who we are at our best.”
DeFrantz has been one of the most influential women in sports since her days as an Olympic rower, Ridley-Thomas said.
“I can’t think of anyone, Anita, who has meant so much to their sport, and who, in your own way, worked hard over a period of years to be the best that you could be,” said Olympian Rafer Johnson.
Johnson told the story of the U.S. 1980 Olympic boycott, and said that DeFrantz “was one of the loudest voices heard that opposed that boycott.”
The LA84 Foundation made an agreement with the International Olympic and the L.A. Organizing Committee that 40 percent of any surplus from the 1984 Games would go back into the community to serve its youth through sports. The Olympics subsequntly generated a $93 million endowment for the foundation, which has been led by DeFrantz for the last 28 years.
Since then, DeFrantz has increased the endowment to $160 million, and that’s after more than $225 million has been distributed to nearly 2,200 youth sports organizations.
“You’ve been given a job to give money away,” said Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson. “Give money away for nearly 30 years, and when you are leaving this fine organization, you have more money than you were given in the first place.
“I know how to give money away, but I don’t know how to make it grow like that,” Wesson joked. “Anita has proven that it can be done.”
To date, more than 3 million boys and girls, and more than 1,100 youth sports organizations throughout Southern California have benefited from the endowment, according to foundation records.
DeFrantz will take on a new role after leaving the foundation, she will expanded her role in the campaign to bring the 2024 summer games to Los Angeles for a third time.
“We need Anita DeFrantz,” Wesson said. “We need her hope. We need the relationships that she has built over the years. Who better to articulate the Los Angeles position than Anita DeFrantz?”
Simril, a former executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Times, will take on the task of replacing a legend.
“We know that you’re a super star, and that you have always risen to the top,” Wesson said to Simril.