The has announced a $25 million multiyear commitment to address the growing issue of underfunded youth athletic programs across the country.
Using a proprietary crowdfunding platform to match community donations on a 1:1 basis, the foundation will award up to $2 million annually through its program to disbanded or financially challenged youth sports teams. To be eligible for a grant, teams must serve K-12 youth; be affiliated with a school, nonprofit, or league with 501(c)(3) status; and have been eliminated, at risk of elimination, or never formally established because of financial challenges.
In addition to the funding, the foundation is launching a public awareness campaign to highlight the issue and has recruited pro football analyst Jon Gruden and actor Michael B. Jordan to serve as spokesmen for the program. As part of the campaign, the foundation has partnered with Tribeca Digital Studios and director Judd Ehrlich to create We Could Be King, a documentary that depicts two rival Philadelphia high schools that were forced to merge due to budget cuts, and how their merged football teams learn to work together — not only for the sake of the team, but for the benefit of the larger community.
According to the foundation, billions of dollars have been cut from youth sports programs nationwide in recent years, and at least one study predicts that, by 2020, 27 percent of U.S. public schools will not offer interscholastic sports programs.
"We believe youth sports instill important character traits and teach life lessons that people carry with them throughout their lives," said Lauren Hobart, director of the DICK'S Foundation and senior vice president/chief marketing officer of DICK'S Sporting Goods. "Studies show that increasingly significant financial shortfalls are preventing young athletes from participating in organized sports, and through Sports Matter, we are taking important steps to raise awareness for this issue, contribute to financial needs, and provide access to organized sports."