During his childhood, when he struggled to get a ball or practice any sport, Carlos Gómez never imagined that his son Scott would become an Olympic athlete. Neither did he dream that he himself would one day head an organization helping more than 100 children into sports. “I love my children, I am proud of them,” he says, thinking of the young athletes and graduates who have played hockey thanks to the Scotty Gómez Foundation.
Carlos Gómez comes from a family of immigrants. His parents came to the United States with the bracero program and two of their children—one being Carlos—were born in Modesto, California. Shortly thereafter, his parents were deported, and Carlos grew up in the Mexican bordertown of Tijuana and the coastal village of Vallarta.
Misfortune darkened his door again when he was ten and his father passed away. His mother realized then that she could not take care of her ten children alone, so Carlos was sent to live with an aunt in San Diego. She enrolled him in elementary school, and Carlos began to make his life on this side of the border.
Barely two years later, after the earthquake of 1964, Carlos’s older brother moved from Los Angeles to Alaska to work in the construction industry. “Since Latinos always follow the older brother, I came in 1968, and then in 1969, during the summer holidays. In 1972, when I left school, I came to stay indefinitely,” he recalls.
At age 23 he married a Colombian who was then 18 years old. They had three children. Scotty was born second, and began playing hockey at age four. “As Scott was my only son and I grew up without a father, I tried to awaken in him the love of sports, which I greatly enjoy.”
Practicing winter sports is expensive, Carlos recalls. “When Scott’s season started, we all had to tighten our belts for the cost of hockey, but as a parent, if a son or daughter is the best in something, you find your way to help them.” However, they never lacked the support of the community: the Boys and Girls Club donated Scotty’s first equipment, and in various ways, others lent their support while Scotty was a child.
Discipline was important to Carlos: “I would tell Scott: ‘This world is full of ignorant people, and you’re not going to be one of them; it’s full of drunk people and you’re not going to be one of them.’” Scott understood the message: he developed his talent, and he played 16 years in the major leagues, having skipped the minor leagues. He won the Stanley Cup twice, and just recently started as a coach for the New York Islanders.
When Scott was a professional hockey player and Carlos was retired, they both looked for a way to give back to the community something of what it had shown them when Scott first stepped onto the ice. First they gave the Boys and Girls Club a $50,000 scholarship for children to play hockey. A year later, in 2012, they created the Scotty Gómez Foundation and launched their team, the Rams.
“At that time I went to the Spanish mass to announce the Foundation, and I saw many kids who looked like Scott,” recalls Carlos and says that when he looked at them, he felt confident that he was doing the right thing.
The Scotty Gómez Foundation serves 175 children who pay only half of what other teams charge. The rest of the players’ expenses are defrayed through fundraisers that Carlos organizes and in which all the children participate.
Most Rams players are Hispanic, Native, Samoan, or members of other minorities, although Carlos prefers that they do not think of themselves as minorities, since he does not want them to feel disadvantaged. “I do not want them to be treated as if they were inferior,” says Carlos, aware that some people might see them that way. “My children are good; they just needed an opportunity,” he adds proudly.