She is being remembered as the face and heart of Malibu youth sports. Sandy Banducci, who oversaw kids’ sports in many capacities for nearly five decades in Malibu, died on July 3, according to husband Russ Banducci. Sandy’s tenure interacting with Malibu families spanned generations, as children competing in youth sports some 40 years ago grew up and entered their own offspring into city-run programs.
Sandy met her husband Russ at UCLA and got married in 1966. They had two sons and a daughter, with their family eventually growing to include six grandchildren. Sandy was a wedding planner and the event coordinator at the Malibu West Swim Club for 25 years where she oversaw family lifecycle events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and parties of all kinds. Most Malibu residents knew Sandy through the many sports programs she ran through the city, even before Malibu was incorporated. According to friend Mary Ellen Starlin-Junkins, a newly formed Malibu High School PTA once commented that there was no need to introduce Banducci when she became the first athletic director for the high school “because if you don’t know her, you don’t live here.”
“She knew generations of Malibu families,” according to Russ. “The children came through and then their children came through. She was one of those people who remembered everybody’s names and their children and parents. She had a remarkable capacity to remember people. She was loved by so many. The children who came back year after year thanked her for all the work she did.”
Sandy was recognized as an early Malibu Dolphin Award winner in 1992.
Sandy and Russ lived in Malibu Park for 50 years until their home was destroyed in the Woolsey Fire in November. Though they moved to their daughter’s home in Huntington Beach, Sandy would still make the long drive to Malibu to work as a rec assistant. According to her supervisor, Katie Gallo, Malibu City recreation supervisor for community services, she loved interacting with the kids and the community. Sandy once told The Malibu Times, “When the little ones make their first basket after they have played for eight weeks, everything stops and people are yelling and cheering for them. It’s so adorable to see their faces light up. It’s the biggest thing in the world for them at that moment. They never forget a kind word or a hug. Every day we want to congratulate somebody on something they did that was really unique, or special, or a first. I love that.”
Her husband of 54 years, Russ, told The Malibu Times, “it was love at first sight” when he met his wife. He said the day they met he wrote his parents saying he met the girl he was going to marry. “I was very sure of it. We had a wonderful romantic life,” he shared. “Every day we held hands and told each other we loved each other. We were really blessed. She never wanted people to be sad. I feel blessed, but I sure miss her terribly.”
Gallo, who served with Banducci for years with Parks and Recreation said, “She was the face and heart of the Malibu Youth Sports Program. The personal relationships that she developed with all our volunteers and staff members will not be forgotten.”
City council honored her at the July 8 council meeting, adjourning the meeting in her memory, indicating the breadth of people she touched throughout her many years in Malibu. A message shared from city hall staff she worked with said they continued to be broken up over her loss, a month after her death.
Sandy Banducci was surrounded by family and friends at her passing. She was 76.