Haldis Toppel, son Curt, daughter-in-law Nicole and daughter, handed Palisades Recreation Center Director Jasmin Dowlatshahi a check for $10,000, which will bring volleyball to the Center.
“I’m so pleased that we are able to bring the sport to the children of the Palisades,” Haldis said. “My son grew up here, playing all the sports.”
Curt, who went to St. Matthew’s and then Loyola, said he had played basketball and baseball at the Rec Center, and acknowledged his old baseball coach, Mike Skinner, who still sits on the Park Advisory Board. And Curt remembered that his team “the Tigers won the world series.”
Curt, who is 6’9” tall, said at one point he had to choose a sport and it came down to basketball or volleyball. “I chose volleyball and went to Stanford on a full ride,” he said. He was a three-time All-American at college.
In 2001, he played on the USA’s World University Games squad that won a gold medal in Beijing, China. In the summer of 2002, he trained with the U.S. National Team.
He suffered an injury, but after physical therapy played 10 years professionally in Europe. Afterwards, Curt played beach volleyball for a short time, before starting work as a software engineer.
Upon the dedication of the plaque, “It’s amazing for people to have facilities to play,” Curt said. “Thank you so much, it means a lot to me.” He brought his wife, a Palisades High School and UCLA graduate, architect Nicole (Violani) Toppel and their daughter to the brief ceremony, which was held on January 18 before the PAB meeting.
Dowlatshahi said there will be two volleyball courts in the big gym and the league is expected to start this spring. Evaluations will be held on March 12 and 14. Teams will include a minor girls team (born in 2013-2014) and the older girls, the majors (born 2011-12).
Haldis explained to this editor that for her husband’s 80th birthday in 2012, the family had started a Toppel Matching Grant fund in honor of Kurt. Money donated would be matched by the Toppels up to $20,000.
With an initial $10,000, plans were drawn up for the bocce courts and Veterans Gardens. The project also received substantial funding from the Ronald Reagan American Post 283, where Kurt, a veteran of the Korean War was a member.
The Palisades Recreation Center has benefited from Toppel’s activism.
Kurt, who was a member of PAB, was instrumental in raising almost $2 million and protecting an additional $1 million in Prop A funds to assure the construction of the big gym. For this effort he was honored with the Pacific Palisades Citizen of the Year award and the Sparkplug Award.
Kurt passed away in 2018, but the remaining “birthday” money was still available.
“We were waiting for a good cause,” Haldis said, and thanked PAB member (and Community Council President) Maryam Zar for the idea to fund a volleyball program. “I’m so happy we can contribute to the children growing up here.”