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Leveling the Playing Field: Bridging the Gap in Youth Sports Access

This fall I had the chance to tour our local Leveling the Playing Field, they share a space with Elevate Northland and are tucked away in the warehouse in the back. Honestly, if I had not been invited I would not have known they were there but hidden away in an old roofing warehouse is a little flicker of hope for young athletes throughout Ohio.

Studies have shown that financial barriers can significantly limit access to sports for many young people. For example, a report by the Aspen Institute's Project Play found that cost is one of the major barriers to sports participation for children from lower-income families. Additionally, the lack of access to equipment, fees for participation, travel expenses, and specialized coaching can all contribute to this issue. While precise numbers may be difficult to ascertain, efforts to address these barriers and increase access to sports for all youth are essential for promoting physical activity, development, and well-being. Since its inception in 2013, LPF has been on a mission to level the playing field by providing sports equipment to underserved communities, and its impact speaks volumes.

In 2022 alone, LPF made significant strides in its mission across multiple markets, including Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, according to national statistics. Now, as LPF expands its reach to Ohio, it aims to replicate and build upon this impact within the local community. The numbers are impressive: over $3.7 million worth of sporting equipment collected, with more than $2.9 million worth distributed to various schools, leagues, and programs in need. The impact reverberates through 794 unique institutions, including 417 new programs that successfully went through LPF's application process. Moreover, the organization hosted 1,445 volunteers, whose dedication and generosity fueled LPF's operations.

One of LPF's short-term goals, especially in Ohio, is to bolster its collection efforts. By expanding its inventory, LPF aims to cater to the diverse needs of all programs seeking assistance, ultimately fostering sustainable impacts within these communities. The target is clear: full distribution readiness by the spring of 2024. That's right now.

But LPF's success doesn't rest solely on its organizational efforts; it thrives on community involvement and support. Local families and organizations play a pivotal role in LPF's endeavors, offering avenues for contribution and engagement. Donations of excess sports equipment, drop-offs at designated locations, or even arranging collection drives are tangible ways for individuals and groups to make a difference. Volunteering, too, is a cornerstone of LPF's operations, with opportunities for individuals and teams to lend their time and expertise to inventory and sorting tasks. We have been excited to see local clubs like Locker Soccer at the forefront of supporting this cause by hosting a drop off container at there facility. Also, our partners at Elite Tournaments host collection sites during their tournament weekends

However, LPF's impact transcends mere redistribution of sports equipment. It tackles the issue of waste head-on, championing sustainability in its approach. By rescuing unused or discarded sports gear and providing it to those in need, LPF not only addresses the inequity in youth sports but also minimizes environmental impact. The organization's ethos of "up-cycling" ensures that equipment gets a new lease on life, benefiting countless children while reducing waste.

In essence, LPF embodies a holistic solution to the disparities in youth sports access. Through tireless efforts, innovative approaches, and community collaboration, it continues to make strides towards its vision of a world where every child has the opportunity to play and thrive. As the Ohio branch grows and evolves, its commitment to leveling the playing field remains unwavering, inspiring hope and transformation in underserved communities across the state.

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