6 minute read

Good Works: Hearst Castle

The Heart Of Hearst

The Foundation at Heart Castle Seeks to Delight, Educate, and Inspire.

Story by Major Rogers Photos provided by The Foundation at Heart Castle

Given its history, its glamour, and its relative proximity to the Valley, it's surprising there are people here who have never heard of Hearst Castle. But, maybe you or someone you know has experienced the State of California-owned hilltop castle with ocean views. It was once owned by William Randolph Hearst, the wealthy media magnate from the first half of the 20th century. Within the construction and existence of the property, you find excess, you find lavishness, you find opulence. In some ways you question the soul of such spending. However, today when you visit, you realize its true wealth: the art, the culture, the beauty, and the fact that the property is a love letter to the surrounding lands. There is also something afoot worth more than all the money on that hill: education.

The full benefits of the property can only be fully employed with the one that rules them all: heart. It takes someone with a passion for bettering lives, showing young people you can surround yourself with things in life you enjoy, which come from education, opportunity, work, and those willing to show the way. In the case of the Castle, this passion comes through The Foundation at Hearst Castle. This non-profit group creates fundraising opportunities to not only help the preservation of the Castle, but to benefit and inspire financially disadvantaged youth. Beyond having these students simply visit the property, the goal is also to start the creative mind thinking about architecture, art, geography, topography, and oceanography.

Hearst Castle is a place of dreams. Not only for those of Hearst, but for those who visit and become inspired firsthand by the property.

There is a spearhead to this foundation movement, and currently it comes from one of Visalia’s favorite sons, Michael Young. Michael took the two-year position of Executive Director at The Foundation at Hearst Castle three years ago. His tenure was extended due to the Covid shutdown. Michael was an all-around athletic standout at Mt. Whitney (’80) before he went on to play both football and baseball at UCLA, and ultimately in a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, within a storied, decade-long professional career. Michael had a natural charisma and high intellect that drew professional business administrations to recruit him upon his professional football retirement. He has executive office experience from both the Denver Broncos (where he helped the program win two Super Bowls) and the Los Angeles Dodgers operations. Between them, Michael worked for 25 years where he was instrumental in marketing, branding, and creating revenue streams before retiring and settling down in the seaside town of Cambria. But then he got the itch to once again step in and help a winning program.

The Foundation has created new fundraising opportunities through Castle experiences. Over a few summer dates, the pools of the mansion are opened to friends of the Foundation. For a donation, guests not only get to swim in the pool, but they also get to use the historic changing rooms where the likes of Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, and Joan Crawford changed into their swim attire. Along with that, a bar and banquet table are set with food and drinks for the guests who swim during sunset. Also provided: chef-paired meals, served in the Casa Del Mar guest house, which is where Hearst himself lived in his golden years. After dinner, the group goes into the Castle to watch a movie of choice in the Hearst private theatre. Both opportunities have been successful in bringing in generous donors. “We really try to recreate an evening that Hearst himself would want to provide for guests,” Michael explains of the unique experiences. And the best news, half the money goes towards the preservation of the property, and the remainder sponsors school kids to come experience the place for themselves, bringing in close to 1000 participants a year.

Michael Young, Executive Director of The Foundation at Heart Castle

Michael Young, Executive Director of The Foundation at Heart Castle

Michael was also a scholar in school. He was a Sociology Major at UCLA and was named to the Academic All Pac-10 team while there. He has a passion for education and what it can do for young people. Mike says excitedly, “We bring groups of kids here from places all around California.” Junior high school students from underserved communities are brought to tour the area. Kids come from towns like King City, or our neighbor Ivanhoe, where Boys and Girls Club members are treated to the tour. Transportation and food for the day are also included. Along with the Castle tour, the kids are taken down the hill where Hearst seaside operations took place. The mind can be sparked here, too, with lessons in geology and oceanography, along with a fun swim in the sea for those who choose. “We routinely host groups of 50 and it's typical in these cases that only 15 out of the group have ever seen the ocean in person.” One kid who had never experienced the sea ran into it with great excitement, only to stop and turn around and report to the group, “It’s so salty,” when he got a mouthful of water. It's these awakening moments that Mike likes best.

The famed Castle architect Julia Morgan is highlighted to the group. As one of the world's first-ever female architects, Morgan's pioneering presence in the architectural world was instrumental for women who had creative aspirations of their own. Morgan serves as a current hero for touring students to learn about.

In the end, you realize Hearst Castle is a place of dreams. Not only for those of Hearst, but for those who visit and become inspired firsthand by the property. The experiences undoubtedly plant the seeds of success in some who visit. The Castle is now a cause that benefits us all through the educational opportunities provided to future generations, as well as the unique experiences offered to those who help support them.