Hockey, Soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse. Our kids played some or all of these sports growing up. We think back on all of the good times we had during those seasons. They made great friends, learned amazing life lessons, learned to be a team player. They benefited in so many ways – not just making them a good teammate, but a better person, a more compassionate person, and a better human being. They made friends that will last them through school and beyond. The memories, the jerseys, the trophies all become part of their lives and who they are. No matter how the teams did, they learned, they enjoyed, they grew.
Aren’t we all proud of the fact that we were able to afford these sports for our kids. Some were less expensive than others, some were too much, but we knew the value of being on a team and we stretched our dollars. We woke up early to take them, stayed out late for practices, and took off Fridays to go to tournaments. Their teams became our lives for years and we were very happy that way. The other team parents where our closest friends for the season and beyond. We wore their team colors, had team blankets, and cheered and took pictures that we shared proudly with our families.
And then there are the others. Let’s talk about them. Those kids that cannot afford to play travel sports. Those kids that because of family circumstances cannot enjoy the benefits of being a team player. Of course they can still have success in life, and they do just fine, but they miss out on a huge part of growing up. Thankfully, almost every organization has a scholarship program that enable these kids can play. They can benefit from being on a team. The organizations realize that those who can afford to play have to support those who cannot afford it – and this is a good thing. I have seen several players who were scholarshiped become such an integral part of the team and learn so much. Andrew also saw this, and it meant a lot to him.
So there is money and spots for those who cannot afford. What is missing though, is a big part. And Andrew realized this. Let me tell you a story.
One of Andrew’s hockey teammates would tie a pair of hockey socks around his shoulders to give the appearance that he wore shoulder pads. Without them he could not play, but he could not afford to buy real shoulder pad. His family just did not have the extra money to spend. Andrew talked to me about this and he did something about it. We went to some Manhattanville Men’s Hockey players we knew and told them about this player, and they were more than glad to donate a pair of pads for him. They knew the value of being on a team and wanted to help. Another player had holes in her gloves and we arranged for new gloves from the Woman’s team. And yet another player had such large feet that most hockey stores did not stock his size, but someone on Manhattanville was glad to donate his used, but very large, skates. Andrew was touched by this and really worked to get used equipment to players in need.
The point of the story is this. While most organizations have scholarship money for spots on a team, and most school teams don’t charge for playing or can subsidize players, there is nothing for those players in need of equipment. Organization won’t buy a player who wore or outgrew skates new skates. If a players stick breaks, there is no replacement that someone is going to give her. If a kid is using an expired helmet (yes, they do expire these days), no one is there to purchase him a new helmet so he can continue to be part of that team.
This is where we want to come in. The friends, team mates, and family who loved Andrew. The clients, peers, friends and co-workers of his parents.
In Andrew’s memory, and in his honor, we are stepping in and helping these kids who need equipment, but due to circumstances cannot afford what they need. We will be there to buy them a new helmet, a new stick, shoulder pads, or even socks. We are going to make them whole again so that they can continue to pursue their dreams. This is going to be a gift, not a loaner, not a rental, but a gift that they get to keep as their own. We are not going to make a public statement about it – we are not going to list who got what, privacy is so important in situations like this. But at the end of the season, or once a year, we will publish a list of what was given out, what items we gifted to needy individuals.
The goal is to make a difference in these kid’s lives. We are going to start with ice hockey because that was Andrew’s passion. And we want to start out small and learn how to do this correctly. Then our hopes and plans are to expand to other sports as time and finances allows us to.
Just think about how your kids, nephews, nieces, or your neighbors benefited from sports. Think of the fun, life experiences and other benefits that they were afforded being on a team – and being well equipped. Look at any ice rink or ball park and you can see the fun these kids are having and the lessons they are learning in life. Please help us in helping the small percentage of kids who need our help. Let’s not lock them out because they could not buy a new stick or new skates. Let our compassion help these kids grow into fine human beings. It’s only a small part of their lives, but isn’t it worth it?
We do not have a name for the foundation yet, and hoping some creative friend will come up with a great name for us to use. Something that includes his name, but also the idea of what we are trying to accomplish here.
We are not soliciting donations now, but will within a few weeks. When we do, we really hope that we have can have a response that would make Andrew proud of what he started.