June 11, 2019

Grantee Spotlight- Rural Outreach Center

Project Play WNY is fortunate to partner with so many organizations in Western New York, and this month, we would like to feature the Rural Outreach Center (ROC).

The ROC’s services focus on education, children and job creation which assist, empower and elevate participants as they work toward self-sufficiency. The ROC also provides innovative programming that aligns with the goals of Project Play WNY, whose mission is to ensure that all children have the opportunity to be active through sports regardless of zip code.

Recent data indicates that of all counties in New York State, three of the five with the highest rate of poverty for kids are in Western New York. On a listing of the poorest cities in New York, rural parts of our region present dire economic situations for families and children. Orleans, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties each have a city that ranks in the top 10 for the highest poverty rates in the state.

The issue of poverty and youth sports is largely a 21st century phenomena.  The reason for the strength of the sport sector in the U.S. is in part due to its democratic and meritocratic reputation.  Until recently, sport has been a vehicle to bring together people across socio-economic levels, and for the very talented, it has served as a vehicle to socio-economic mobility. The rising costs of participating in sport is impacting youth in impoverished regions and leaving them priced out of the opportunities that helped many before they move out of poverty.

The ROC offers youth sports programming as part of its holistic approach to the needs and challenges of the rural communities.

Led by retired University at Buffalo Exercise Science Professor Dr. Frank Cerny, the ROC also provides support for families who are priced out of traditional sport opportunities or who struggle to find the time or transportation to participate in such programs. As a multi-year Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Youth Sports Legacy Fund grant, the ROC has not only facilitated youth sports activities and made possible participation in local leagues, but it has also explored bringing play and sport to youth living in remote and marginalized regions. Recently, Dr. Cerny and the ROC have explored the use of sport participation as a means of therapy for children who have experienced trauma from the harshness of a poverty stricken life. For more information, visit theroc.co.