July 22, 2020

Times Like No Other

Would you agree that an underlying formula to most athletic endeavors is to plan, train, and execute?  We learn this formula through the backyard or pick-up games played with friends and family.  As we grow older, we develop a keener sense of how this formula works — first in sports, then in school, and hopefully, if the lessons stick, in life. It is the transferable skill of discipline: learn it through play, sharpen it through sports, and use it in life.  What happens, though, when we can’t plan because events are canceled? Or, when the only constant is the need to change? 

Planning, training, and executing among all the uncertainties is a challenge. Whether it is staying healthy amid a pandemic, keeping kids active with very few activities taking place, or confronting perceptions about equity in both sports and life, all of this is creating a time like no other. The key to successfully navigating this time is to work together to support each other and bring about change that helps advance our youth and families.

To that end, Project Play WNY has been listening, learning, and brainstorming how we can help people work together to improve our communities. A first step was the creation of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Youth Sport and Recreation COVID-19 Fund, through which we awarded over $225,000 in grant monies to youth-serving organizations.

A second step is the ongoing distribution of PlayPacks filled with sporting equipment and Free Play decks of cards. Our goal is to help organizations engage with families through games and sports either at home or in smaller groups. The PlayPack distributions connect to a Free Play Challenge, which is a fun way to encourage kids to keep moving.  We will work with any organization interested in using these PlayPacks to stay connected to their families and kids. For more information on how to get involved, please check out our PlayPacks article. 

A third step is the opening of ball bin distribution sites throughout the eight WNY counties. These ball bins are operated by Victory Sports and contain new soccer and playground balls, basketballs, footballs, and volleyballs.  When emptied, the bins are refilled with sanitized gently used balls. Victory Sports is always looking for donated equipment.  Hosting a ball drive is a great way to bring people together and support kids in a time of need. To join this initiative, please go to https://victorysports.org/.

In closing, Project Play WNY recognizes the passing of our friend and Coaches Training Working Group member Dick Gallagher. Dick was one of the first to walk into the Project Play WNY launch event back in 2017. His presence brought immediate credibility to the initiative. Dick was a pioneer in communicating the greater role sport can have in a young person’s life. He recognized the wins, the losses, and outstanding athletes in our community but also championed the hope, purpose, and direction sport provides to youth. Last November, Project Play WNY and the Buffalo Bills honored Dick with the Thank You Coach Lifetime Service Award. As many have noted, it will take an army to replace Dick’s good work in the community. Thankfully over his lifetime, he marshaled an army of supporters both within Project Play WNY and Western New York youth sports. We look forward to working with that army to keep Dick’s spirit and strength alive in the years ahead. 

As always, we welcome your thoughts, ideas, and comments at projectplaywny@cfgb.org.