Jenni Porter recently drove back from Simi Valley as she does every Tuesday with her 22-year-old son, John Michael. He’d just taken a weekly horse riding lesson. Porter, the ultimate multi-tasking West Hills resident, was conducting a phone interview on the drive home and said Tuesdays are a day she cherishes dearly.
The wife and mother of four has two jobs and hosts a golf tournament on the side, but she always makes time for this weekly source of joy. Her son, who has down syndrome, loves riding horses, and she loves watching him relish the activity.
Her celebration of co-directing the 11th Annual Ross Porter Celebrity Golf Classic one day earlier could wait until Wednesday.
“This is something I’ll never give up, my special time with John,” Jenni said. “He enjoys sports. I utilize all my free time and make sure I get to spend it with the people I love.”
Just one day prior, Jenni had been running around North Ranch CC in Westlake, helping with golfer registration, last-minute auction items, gift bags, breakfast, lunch and really, anything that needed to be done at the Annual Ross Porter tournament.
The 48-year-old mother balances her jobs at Chaminade High, where she’s a religion and English teacher, a part-time job at Stillpoint helping her husband, Ross Jr., and the side gig as co-tournament director of the golf tournament. Ross Jr. is the founder and director of Stillpoint Family Resources, which helps families in crisis through counseling, education and more. The Porters saw first hand how much help was needed for other families as they raised their first-born, John Michael, who still lives with them.
The couple has four children: John Michael; Austin, 20; Dillon, 18 and Annie, 14. It’s quite a balancing act.
“It’s tricky sometimes,” Porter said. “I have almost two full-time jobs. At Chaminade, I’m 90 percent (full-time). I have a lot of volunteer help, though. In terms of balance, I use my off periods from teaching to run errands during the day. Today, I was in charge of a school-wide troops drive. I had 1,000 letters to mail. I also picked up mail for Stillpoint. I sent e-mails. I went to the market, then I finished teaching. You have to utilize your free time.”
Ross Jr. is the son of Ross Porter, the former longtime Dodgers radio broadcaster and current play-by-play announcer for the Cal State Northridge baseball team. Ross Sr. is also the co-director of the golf tournament, along with his daughter-in-law. Ross is in charge of bringing celebrities to the event, and he’s aced that. Some of the celebrities included James Worthy, Eric Karros, Ron Cey, Shawn Green, and a who’s-who of broadcasters have played in the event. Recently retired Vin Scully attended the event to sign and take pictures, as he does every year, and former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley and Tommy Lasorda attended the dinner and auction as well.
“She works really hard,” Ross said of his daughter-in-law, Jenni. “It’s hard to explain everything she does because she does so many things and gets it ready. She’s in charge of all the little things. I’m pretty much in charge of sponsors and celebrities. She’ll do things like get all the tee signs ready. She’s getting the banners ready. She’smaking the deals with the country clubs, the caterers, the list just goes on and on. It’s the little things you have to do to make the tournament right.”
Jenni doesn’t play golf, but she loves the beautiful scenery of a golf course, friendships formed and that the sport is used for charitable efforts.
“I grew up in a family that loved golf,” Jenni said. “My grandfather, Jack Hauser, always said golf wouldn’t be half as much fun if it he didn’t have people to do it with.”
The golf tournament grossed about $100,000 this year, according to Jenni, and the funds go to Stillpoint Family Resources. They’ve grossed about $100,000 each of the last six years and around $1 million over the tournament’s existence.
“This is his baby,” Jenni said of her father-in-law. “I didn’t know anything about golf when we started. When he said ‘let’s do a golf tournament,’ I said I would do all of the business stuff since I didn’t know anything about golf. I know more now. My father-in-law lives and breathes this tournament. He’s so passionate about it. He’s so well-respected and liked. Even if he wasn’t my father-in-law, I would love him. He’s honest and hard-working and compassionate, and he has a real heart for special needs. It started with John Michael being born, and he hasn’t looked back. He has just embraced that baby. They’re best friends.”
Jenni’s mom, Linda Somdal, and mother-in-law Linda volunteer at the event as well. The committee starts meeting weekly about six weeks before the event, and the committee has been open to her ideas.
“My mother-in-law and I are on the committee, and we’re the only women represented,” Jenni said. “Fortunately, we have my father-in-law and other men who respect me. I’m just me. I am who I am. I’m pretty impressed that I’ve been able to do this with the help of my father-in-law and this amazing committee. We’ve worked together.”
Jenni went to Flemings for dinner with her husband, Ross Jr., two days after the tournament to celebrate. She said making time for relationships is what has kept her family so strong, despite certain challenges and hectic schedules.
The golf tournament has been a family affair and a source of friendship, love, success and giving back.
And it gives Jenni and her son, John Michael, much to talk about on those Tuesday drives.