inSERVICE: Play It Forward Provides Much-Needed Sporting Equipment

Kids Playing

When she was 12 years old, Emmi Eisner visited a local elementary school in Pacoima, Calif., and was dismayed to find out that many schools cannot provide their students with sports equipment for physical education classes, or during their recess time. Seeing this unmet need, Eisner began collecting new and gently used sporting equipment from friends, family and beyond, ultimately delivering a whole truckload of equipment to the school.

As the equipment arrived, the student body chanted her name and “Play it forward.” What seemed like a simple action—providing kids with balls to play with—led to the creation of a 501(c)(3) in early 2013—Play It Forward, with a mission to engage students in athletics by providing much-needed equipment to underserved schools.

Led entirely by kids—the organization’s Youth Advisory Board is made up of 8- to 21-year-olds—Play It Forward is on a mission to provide high-quality P.E. equipment to schools that can’t afford it. Youth Advisory Board members help set goals for the organization, and lead marketing and fundraising efforts. They also deliver equipment to schools, and teach fellow students how to use the equipment. A Board of Directors steps in to provide mentorship and administrative support when needed.

“Not only are sports a fun and healthy outlet, but they also teach teamwork and the importance of being responsible to others,” states the nonprofit’s website. “They allow kids to build confidence and are a key part of developing happy and healthy children.  By ensuring all students have access to athletic equipment from an early age, we can give them the tools to continue healthy exercise habits throughout their lives benefiting their academics, mental health, and much more.”

Applications for grants can be submitted by school administrators, teachers, P.E. coaches or community members on behalf of a single school. Supplies might include anything from basketballs and footballs to volleyball nets, jump ropes, parachutes, hula hoops and more.

Play It Forward works with selected schools to meet their equipment needs, allowing them to improve their physical education programs. The nonprofit relies most heavily on donations and corporate sponsorships for support, which allow it more freedom to support the grant-winning schools.

Since its first equipment drive, Play It Forward has raised around $275,000, donated equipment to more than 110,000 schools and reached more than 80,000 children.

Learn more about Play It Forward at     RM