Editor's note: People We Know is a new column that will highlight the people who live, work or influence good things in Cupertino. Our inaugural column features Michael Gottwald.
Known in Cupertino as the “man with a big heart”, Michael Gottwald is as warm and considerate in person as his tireless support for charity and youth sports, his admirers and supporters say.
Since childhood Gottwald battled mental disabilities but never let it curb his enthusiasm. As a top supporter for Cupertino’s disabled and Little League, Gottwald puts others ahead of himself.
“I was in special ed my whole life and I want to thank my deceased mom, Lee Gottwald and my dad, Rudy Gottwald, for everything they have done in my life to get me this far and all my friends in the community who have donated over the years to my charity causes,” said Gottwald.
Gottwald, now 42, supports 27 different charities and raised more than $55,000 over the last six years. The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and Cupertino Heartwalk are among the charities for which he raises money through organized walks or knocking on his neighbors’ doors.
“I strongly believe he has a big heart,” says Councilman Gilbert Wong. “Sometimes he’s so passionate he forgets to get a permit before going door-to-door.”
The catalyst for his philanthropic ways began with the December 2006 death of his mother, he says, and he goes at it full force.
“He does all kinds of charity walks and he’s soliciting all kinds of people,” said Vice Mayor Orrin Mahoney. “He’s got a good heart.”
Gottwald is known as a regular at Cupertino City Council meetings as well as his persistence in asking for donations for his favorite causes.
“He contacts people a lot, he does a lot of fundraisers through walks,” said former Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal. “I can count on a call once or twice a month from Michael.”
“He shows up and he’s really supportive of city council members,” says Rick Kitson, environmental affairs manager for Cupertino. “He frequently addresses the council and is committed to local causes.”
Kim Smith, a retiring city clerk, remembers Gottwald well for his support of fund raising and city council staff. “He’s a master fundraiser. It’s refreshing to have someone from the community who is supportive of staff and he’s very persistent.”
Gottwald was given the Relay for Life Award in 2010 and 2011 and received a proclamation from the city in 2011 for his accomplishments as well as a CREST (Cupertino Recognizes Extra Steps Taken) Award in 2009.
Sports play a big part of Gottwald’s life and though he says he was unable to play any sports in school he still wanted to be involved so became a scorekeeper for the baseball team at Monta Vista High School before his 1987 graduation. He’s still a big supporter there and of Cupertino National Little League.
Sheri Woodburn, mother of a Little Leaguer, says of Gottwald: “Mr. G. watched the games and cheered our team on. He remembered my son’s name even though we only played for three years, and still asks how he’s doing. He’s a very caring individual who wants to help others through the charities he supports.”
As a kid, Gottwald and his dad frequented Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants games at the Oakland Coliseum and threw the ceremonial first pitch on one occasion. But that wasn’t necessarily his biggest sports thrill.
“I even met Joe Montana at the Microsoft Store in December 2011 and got a picture taken with him. It was the greatest moment in my life,” says Gottwald. “It was the grand opening and we left six in the morning and didn’t get back until six at night.”
—Written by Michael Chen