Northeast Johnson County native launches program to help foster kids participate in sports

Ellie Smart
Ellie Smart

When Ellie Smart was 8 years old, her parents took a foster child into their Fairway home. The experience was challenging for Smart, who went from being the only child in the family to the foster sibling of a young man who was struggling to adjust to a new life.

She channelled some of her frustrations into a focus on athletics, participating competitively in gymnastics until she was 12. At that point, she realized her skills in the gym could translate well onto the diving board, and took to the pool. Her natural talents in the diving pool gave her the opportunity to train with a professional coach in Texas, which ultimately led to her acceptance to the University of California — Berkeley as a member of the diving team that would go on to win an NCAA championship.

Now, Smart wants to ensure that foster kids like the young man who joined her family will have the chance to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of sports, like she did. Working with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Smart has launched the Fostering Dreams Foundation to raise money to provide foster kids with financial assistance to participate in sports.

“Athletics has been a huge part of my life and I believe every foster child in Kansas City deserves the opportunity to participate in athletics as well,” she said.

As a kick-off fundraiser for the fund, the organization is selling “Side of Sweat” athletic apparel via Booster. Smart says she’s hoping to sell at least 50 shirts. She’d like to raise a total of $10,000 by January 1 to provide funds for the athletic entry fees and equipment needs of 10 to 20 foster kids.

“Unfortunately, the foster systems’ limited funding barely covers these children essential needs let alone participate in athletics,” she said.

You can also make a donation to the foundation via Generosity here.