(Some of the children Every Kid Sports has helped | Photos Courtesy of Every Kid Sports)
Every Kid Sports, a Central Oregon nonprofit that was formerly called Kids in the Game, is impacting kids across the country with the launch of their national Every Kid Sports Pass program, which covers sports registration fees for kids from income-restricted families. Natalie Hummel, executive director and co-founder of the organization, is very passionate about ensuring youth have access to participate in sports, and is tackling the number one obstacle to youth sports participation: the cost. “The pay to play model in the United States is sidelining so many kids; only 22 percent of kids from income-restricted families are involved in sports and when I learned that, I knew I wanted to make a change. Sports is a great youth development tool, and too many kids are missing out on the opportunity to experience the benefits of playing.”
The organization was founded in 2010 and over the years has offered different programming, all with the goal of keeping kids active. Their signature program, The Every Kid Sports Pass covers registration fees for kids from income-restricted families. Families who are enrolled in a food stamp program, WIC or Medicaid are eligible to apply for up to $150.00, four times per year, for every child in their family. This supports the development of multi-sport athletes, another pillar of the organization that Hummel is especially passionate about. “Kids are dropping out of sports at a rapid rate because they are specializing too soon and are forced into overly competitive programs that only work for a small percentage of kids. Kids need to be playing multiple recreational sports, developing a variety of athletic skills, so they don’t experience burn-out and overuse injuries. By providing funding four times a year, our hope is that a kid will choose to participate in seasonal recreational sports.”
While some nonprofits support specific leagues and youth sport organizations, Every Kid Sports is aimed at supporting families directly. This allows the family and kids to decide what sport they want to play. “When we give directly to a specific league or organization, our message to that kid is “here you go, you can play basketball. But, what if that kid doesn’t want to play basketball? Our program provides them with choices. We fund all sports, from martial arts, to dance, swimming and traditional ball sports,” shares Hummel.
In 2019, Every Kid Sports partnered with Little League International and T-Mobile, who selected the organization to help administer the T-Mobile Little League Call Up Grant, giving more kids access to baseball and softball. The organization is getting ready to kick off the third year of this program starting in November 2021. “We were able to prove out a national model by administering the T-Mobile Little League Call Up Grant, awarding over 16,000 grants for kids to play Little League. Our success led to additional partnerships with DICK’S Sporting Goods, who contributed $5 million dollars, and Under Armour, who rolled out a program where they are asking their customers to support Every Kid Sports at check-out. This initiative has been rolled out to all of their retail stores.” These partnerships have allowed Every Kid Sports to offer the Every Kid Sports Pass, for all sports, to kids in all 50 states.
Since launching their national Every Kid Sports Pass program in June, the organization has awarded over $2 million to over 15,000 kids across 48 states including DC. Hummel has a goal of impacting 100,000 kids a year, and is actively raising additional funds to reach that goal. She is growing her team, and incorporating innovative practices to make sure that the entire process from families applying to fund disbursement stays efficient and timely. An example is the recent adoption of issuing electronic debit cards to the families. These cards have controls so families can only use the funds to register their kids for sports. “We used to send paper checks or electronic fund transfers to the organization hosting a child’s sport. But when our volume of applications grew, we knew this wasn’t sustainable. Knowing that most sports organizations use online registration systems, we adopted a process of sending parents an electronic debit card, which allows them to register and pay for their child’s sports just like any other family” stated Hummel.
Finally, Hummel hopes to become a household name and the go-to resource for families needing assistance. “We are here for the long-haul. This problem is not going away and the need is greater than ever.”