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The Teams Helping Get Young New Yorkers through the Pandemic

“I cannot wait to get in the gym with my teammates and my coaches,” says Grace Sundback. It’s a particularly challenging time for young people in New York, with school schedules, social lives, and—particularly in underserved communities—support networks upended indefinitely.

To help support them in continuing to grow and thrive, SNF has made a cluster of grants to nine stellar organizations that use sports activities as a framework for engagement—organizations such as New Heights, where Sundback is part of the Class of 2023.

In the able hands of these nine grantees, sports become tools for fostering personal growth, academic success, and holistic wellbeing. At each organization, the athletic activity at hand is the entry point to a rich variety of resources, from college admissions help to immigration legal services, and experiences, including participating in urban waterway restoration and building a wooden boat from scratch in the case of Rocking the Boat.

It’s squash at StreetSquash, figure skating at Figure Skating in Harlem, soccer at South Bronx United, basketball at New Heights, and baseball and softball at DREAMNew York Road Runners takes to the streets to facilitate fitness activities for young people, including those who use wheelchairs, while Rocking the BoatRow New York, and Hudson River Community Sailing all take to the water for rowing and sailing.

The hook that draws people to participate, the sports activity, taps a playful sense of competitiveness, but the programming behind it is about steadfast encouragement, a lasting community of peers and coaches, and skills for self-determined success.

“Each of these organizations approaches the critical work of guiding young people with originality and joy, making teamwork and athletic challenge a matrix for personal growth,” said SNF Senior Program Officer Roula Siklas. “They have continued to carry out their missions in spite of all the obstacles the pandemic has created, and SNF is proud to support their important work.”

The new grants are part of SNF’s ongoing $100 million global initiative to help provide relief from the effects of the pandemic, but they build on previous SNF grants to each organization stretching as far back as a decade.

SNF believes that sports offer a flexible matrix for supporting young people by fostering inclusion and building skills for future success and personal wellbeing, in schools, in refugee communities, on remote islands, and beyond.

“The impact of these organizations goes far beyond their courts, rinks, and arenas of play,” said SNF Program Officer Kira Pritchard of the nine grantees. “They provide crucial educational and wrap-around social services to the kids and communities they serve every day.”