As Kelly Tines’ sons started to make their way through grade school, she and her husband noticed a trend: Many of the classmates her kids played sports with seemed to have a hard time paying for the sign-up fees and equipment needed in youth sports leagues.
[pullquote]Vikingpalooza Family Fun Fest
Saturday, Aug. 26
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Breakpointe Community Church
10001 W. 88th St., Overland Park[/pullquote]
“There were a lot of families with kids on our teams or in our scout pack that, even though they were working, they were still struggling to pay for these activities,” Tines said.
She’d witness parents asking if they could pay a little bit upfront, and they cover the rest of a registration fee later. Others wouldn’t be able to cover the price of a football helmet or lacrosse stick. In the Shawnee Mission West area, where free-and-reduced lunch program enrollment is close to 50 percent, the costs of youth sports programs proved a serious barrier to many families.
“It adds up quickly, and it can be overwhelming,” Tines said.
So in 2012, looking for a way to address the need and make participation in youth sports and scouting accessible to all SM West area families, Tines organized the West is Best Scholarship Fund. The fund issues scholarships, usually around $100 per child, that help them cover the costs of after school activities. To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must attend school or live in the SM West feeder area. Unlike some other assistance programs, West is Best Scholarships can be used for equipment as well as registration fees. To date, the fund has issued nearly 600 scholarships totaling more than $57,000.
And this weekend, the organization’s biggest fundraising event returns.
The Vikingpalooza Family Fun Fest provides not only free games and activities, but also a chance for families to connect with youth sports leagues, service agencies and other organizations. The event will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Breakpointe Community Church, 10001 W. 88th Street in Overland Park. In addition to bounce houses and face painting for younger kids, the event will feature a dunk tank. Attendees can purchase tickets for a chance to sink SM West administrators and teachers. Vikingpalooza will also have a display set up with hundreds of pairs of used athletic shoes, including cleats, that families can shop for for free.
Tines said the event, now in its second year, provides a way not only to raise funds for more scholarships, but to boost community connections and raise awareness about the need. The vast majority of families who have received scholarships have at least one parent working, but annual incomes that aren’t enough to make ends meet. Tines said 49 percent of the families that have received scholarships had annual incomes of less than $17,000. More than 75 percent had incomes less than $29,000.
For more information on the West is Best Scholarship Fund, check out their website here. You can make a donation through the site here.