Feature Article - April 2009
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Reaching Out

Recreation in Underserved Communities

By Stacy St. Clair

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Hockey is for Everyone (www.nhlpa.com/GoalsAndDreams/ProgramDetails.asp?ID=43) is a part of the NHL Foundation, the National Hockey League's charitable and community relations organization, and a major component of the League's youth hockey programming. The initiative provides support and unique programming to nonprofit youth hockey organizations across North America that are committed to offering children of all backgrounds opportunities to play hockey. Since its inception, the program has exposed more than 45,000 boys and girls to unique hockey experiences.


The Grassroots Program, a partnership between the NFL and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, has provided financial and technical assistance to a variety of nonprofit neighborhood-based organizations and middle and high schools in roughly 40 cities across the country. Through this program, LISC ensures that the capital improvements to renovate older fields and establish new ones have a stream of maintenance funds and the community support needed to sustain long-term use. The program not only provides recreational opportunities for children in underserved neighborhoods, it also acts as a catalyst for the redevelopment of those communities. In 2007, the Youth Football Fund increased its annual contribution to the Grassroots Program to $5 million.

"Community revitalization is measured by more than construction cranes and concrete, and we applaud the NFL for recognizing the impact that football fields have on local communities," said LISC President and CEO Michael Rubinger. "Public spaces (such as a new football field in Harlem's River Park) are critical to the health of every community and the future of its children. The NFL Grassroots Program is a model for how private and public resources can be applied to a necessary aspect of neighborhood development."

LISC's Web site (www.lisc.org) offers programs and online seminars on preparing Grassroots grant proposals for the very competitive process. This includes a detailed explanation of, among other things, eligibility criteria, target markets and community support requirements.

The two groups also have paired up for NFL Play 60, a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes. Designed to help tackle childhood obesity, it brings together the NFL's long-standing commitment to health and fitness with an impressive roster of partner organizations. Designed to combat childhood obesity, Play 60 is also implemented at the grassroots level through NFL's in-school, after-school and team-based programs all with a focus on the importance of physical fitness and healthy lifestyles. More than 25 NFL clubs helped build youth fitness zones in their communities, providing new places for local youth to be active.