Trekking the Jungle Line

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Trekking the Jungle Line | By Peter Hemming

Amber Phillips is a woman on the go. A successful business, two kids, a boyfriend, and activism has not slowed down this tight bundle of energy. At two, her contractor father, John, and her hairstylist mother, Betty, moved Amber and her sister, Cheyenne, and half brother, Clint, from the suburban confines of Salinas to the more relaxed and open setting of Hollister. “It was a great place to grow up back then,” Amber remembers. “Across the street, we would pick and eat plums from an orchard.”

Twelve years later, divorce left devastated Amber and her sister living with her  father while her  mother and brother moved to Cabo San Lucas. Mixing academics with athletics, Amber initially excelled in school. “I was in G.A.T.E (Gifted and Talented Education), and was a three-sport athlete.” Smart but rebellious, Amber admits she partied a lot, and education took a back seat. Amber had hopes of enlisting in the Navy, but she discovered she was pregnant after graduation. Following the birth of her son, Johnny, in 2004 and daughter, Racey, in 2007, Amber continued her education at Gavilan College in Gilroy, taking whatever work she could find. One job was at the Skydiving Center in Hollister (Amber has over 150 jumps to her credit). Moving to Monterey, Amber entered MCP to get her massage certification, and is currently a liberal arts major working for her teaching credentials. School for Amber is no longer a chore, but fun. “I’d like to teach geology,” says Amber. “I just like to learn!”

A longtime motorsports and racing enthusiast with experience in modeling/promotional jobs, Amber launched Racey Promotions in 2011. Described as, “a modeling agency with a heart,” Racey employs 50 beautiful women as trophy girls, car models, and event staff for races, conventions, trade shows, or corporate functions. Hired not just for eye candy, each model is required to get involved in community service. The women prepare food during Thanksgiving for the homeless, do plant restoration at Pinnacles National Park,  and help out at BBQ fundraisers. Amber says, “We show that beauty and big hearts go hand in hand. My parents always modeled compassion and random acts of kindness, and I feel it shaped me into the person I am today.”

Living in Carmel Valley with her children and boyfriend, Todd Sondgroth, Amber has taken her volunteerism further afield. Last year, with a team of eight from Shoreline Church of Monterey, Amber and her family hiked through dense jungle to help build a church and school in a remote Honduran village. In November, Amber visited five-year-old Kevin Molina in El Salvador, who she sponsors through Compassion International, an organization that helps pay for his food and education. “We took him to a water park,” says Amber. “He had never been in a pool before, and he was ecstatic!” In December, they traveled to Mexico and stayed at an orphanage. There, Amber and Todd created a lavish family Christmas party the children would not ordinarily have. Son Johnny hosted a hacky sack game while daughter Racey made glitter tattoos.  “I want my kids to be happy, healthy, and helpful.”

The future for Amber is certain, though not yet secure. She admits living paycheck to paycheck, but this does not deter her. Racey Promotions will continue, and a teaching degree is in her near future, but these are only sidelines. “The mission trips will always be a staple,” admits Amber. “These are moments you treasure forever.”

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