SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Four young Bay Area men bring a bit of the bayou to San Francisco’s Great Meadow at Fort Mason to benefit homeless youth in the city.
The event is designed to be a traditional, Cajun-country crayfish boil and the guys call themselves The Crawfathers. Asked to describe their process they were succinct:
“We overnight-live crawfish from Louisiana,” said Nick Montana.
“A little special sauce we can’t tell you,” teased Jackson Bouza.
“The spice? The hotter the better!” remarked Jonathan Wallunas.
“It’s like a backyard-barbecue-meets-block-party but you’re eating crawfish” explained Luke O’Connor.
These claws are for a good cause: “Specifically the homeless youth in San Francisco,” Montana said.
Montana went to Tulane University in Louisiana where he attended his first crawfish boil. He loved it and introduced it to his friends. Three years ago, they threw a big feast for family and friends.
Last year, they decided they could have a party and raise money at the same time. After looking at many charities, they settled on a local nonprofit that helps get young people off the streets.
“We’re hosting a crawfish boil to raise money for Larkin Street Youth Services” O’Connor explained.
Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, started off in the early 1980s as a grassroots, volunteer organization. It has a sterling reputation but runs on a very tight budget.
At their main center, homeless kids can get help: emergency shelter, a safe place to sleep, shower, and a hot meal.
“It’s very, very important. It’s a safe haven,” said one young man who was looking for something to wear in the free clothes closet.
Roughly 1,300 homeless youth are living on the streets on any given night in San Francisco. Most try their best not to be found — to remain invisible.
“Many have experienced a lot of trauma. Eighty-eight percent of our youth report abuse and neglect,” said Elinor Tappé, who is chief development officer for Larkin Street.
“Many are coming from systems like the foster system or the justice system but primarily they are on the streets through no fault of their own,” added communications manager Veronica Pastore.
As for the Crawfathers?
“These guys are really impressive,” remarked Veronica.
Last year the men raised close to $17,000 and sent it to the organization. It caught Larkin Street by surprise.
“We had to hunt them down to find out who it was who sent the check and how it came about,” laughed Elinor.
Unlike public funding which is designated for specific programs like shelter, the money raised by the Crawfathers is private and unrestricted.
That means Larkin Street can spend it on critical programs like behavioral health, education and employment services.
With these kinds of services, Elinor and Veronica say there is permanent, positive change.
“Three out of four young people who complete our program exit street life,” said Veronica.
As for the Crawfathers, while they let the good times roll at Fort Mason, their homeless brethren aren’t far from their minds.
“I can see it being very difficult,” Wallunas said.
“We’ve all been so blessed to be growing up in the Bay Area with our situations,” Bouza said.
“We work with Larkin Street Youth now and look forward to continuing working with them,” Montana says.
Nick Montana’s godfather, Super Bowl champ Ronnie Lott, as well as his parents — 49ers legend Joe Montana and his wife, Jennifer — are all lending their support.
“I think the most important part of it is we didn’t convince them to do this. They did this on their own. And, you know, in today’s day and age to have guys that young to think about … ‘let’s find a way to give back to the community’ — it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Joe Montana.
The Crawfathers are already looking ahead to next year’s feast.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” said Jennifer Montana.
The crowd at Fort Mason feasted on hundreds of pounds of crawfish and they raised about $50,000 for Larkin Street Youth Services. If you would like to chip in, the Crawfathers’ GoFundMe page will be up for a few weeks.