Carlos Pena - Spirit of SSU

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Pena, manager of special projects for the athletic association, has used his position on campus to bridge the gap between the University and the businesses surrounding it.

Based on his vast involvement with local businesses, Pena has been chosen by the Cotati Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to receive the Spirit of Sonoma County Award for 2012.

"It amazes me to think how much difference one person has made in this regard,"

Gerard Giudice, owner of Sally Tomatoes said. "He has personally visited and cultivated relationships with over 100 local businesses and groups…"

The Spirit Award is given out each year to recognize individuals in the community that have contributed to the economic vitality of Cotati by building relationships with local businesses to create positive change in the community.

Pena is no stranger to recognition. Last year members of the Rohnert Park Independent Business Leaders (IBL) honored Pena for his community service involvement. IBL is a community-based business association of 60 local business and community leaders.

Upon receiving IBL accolades, Pena said he was humbled to be recognized for trying to make a difference in the community. His ultimate goal is to eliminate division between the University and local community members, businesses and organizations.

Pena has great incentive to give back. Two years ago, Pena lost his eight-year-old child Galilea in a tragic car accident. Despite his heartbreaking loss, Pena managed to turn his grief into a positive and launched a successful 501c(3) non-profit named after his daughter. Galilea's Place to Play benefits youth sports programs in Cotati and the surrounding community.

In the past year, Pena has been involved with several charitable organizations. He serves on the board for Sonoma County Adult & Youth Development (SCAYD), an organization dedicated to helping and providing support for local youth.

Pena continues to follow his passion for athletics in the community. He serves on the board for Rohnert Park Youth Football and the Cal Ripkin Little League and coaches the Ranch Cotati Little League.

The SSU Women's Lacrosse team, the Men's Baseball team, and the SSU Cheerleaders know Pena well as he serves as an advisor for those groups in conjunction with his position at the University.

Pena will continue to build relationships with local businesses and community members for years to come and grow his non-profit in the process.

The Spirit of Sonoma County Luncheon honoring Pena is scheduled for Friday Dec. 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rohnert Park.

For more information on the awards, visit