SPOTLIGHT: Making The World Better For Kids By Advancing Play Equity

The Sports Examiner is delighted to present this important contribution from our patron, the LA84 Foundation, a national leader in the role of sports in positive youth development. Opinions expressed are those of the LA84 Foundation. ★

The LA84 Foundation is a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and its work is a shining example of play equity. Founded on the principles of fair play, education and access to sport for all, as the LA84 Foundation’s 40th anniversary nears it has left an indelible impact on the landscape of youth sports and social development.

Committed to helping kids from all backgrounds become “Life Ready Through Sports,” the LA84 Foundation has supported 4 million youth, provided funding to 2,500 nonprofit organizations, built or refurbished 400 fields of play, courts and pools, and trained over 200,000 coaches.

The organization continues to be a catalyst for change for kids across Southern California, and the LA84 Foundation’s impact has expanded significantly since establishing its charitable partner, the Play Equity Fund. This 501(c)3 public charity addresses systemic issues, removes barriers, and unlocks new public and private resources for its nonprofit partners so all kids can receive the lifelong benefits of sports, play and movement.

“Leveling the playing field for all kids is fundamental to our work and who we are,” said Renata Simril, President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation, and President of the Play Equity Fund. “We believe all young people can succeed with opportunity, which demands access.”

The efforts of the two organizations and their work for play equity matter more today than ever before. A growing mental health crisis among young people following the isolation and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic only give this critical work more urgency – as does the steady rise in the gap between the children who have access to play and those who do not.

Research shows 80% of youth do not meet federal guidelines for physical activity, and children from households with incomes below $25,000 are five times less likely to participate in sports programs than their peers from more affluent homes. Many schools have defunded enrichment programs, including sports, and physical education is an unfunded mandate offered one or two days weekly.

In the spirit of the holidays, your support of the Play Equity Fund can make a difference in young lives. By investing in youth sports scholarships that empower the next generation by providing equipment, uniforms and transportation. Or sponsorship of a student leadership series to inspire the transformative impact of sports and play on positive youth development.

Your support will help the Play Equity Fund get more girls involved in sports through a community-based initiative with 13 nonprofit organizations, coaches and parents that expands access in east and south Los Angeles. Through its advocacy efforts, the Play Equity Fund is stressing to elected officials and policymakers how important sport, play and movement is to student success.

The LA84 Foundation and the Play Equity Fund are committed to one mission – ensuring all kids have access to the transformative power of sport and play by raising awareness, expanding resources, changing policies and making real investments. By creating opportunities through removing barriers to access, you can help the Play Equity Fund build bridges toward a more promising tomorrow for kids.

The LA84 Foundation and the Play Equity Fund established “Play Day,” the annual National Day of Play, and on June 29 it will be one of many events in 2024 celebrating LA84’s 40 years of impact. Play Day annually uplifts the essential role that healthy activity has on supporting childhood development and community well-being, and it shows how sports have the power to connect us with each other.

In 2023, the Play Equity Fund shipped Play-Day-In-A-Box kits packed with balls, cones, jump ropes and other gear to 150 organizations from California to Massachusetts. These kits supported over 5,000 kids nationally. A resolution establishing “Play Day’ in the State of California was unanimously passed by the California State Senate in partnership with the LA84 Foundation and the Play Equity Fund, encouraging all children to get out and play.

In 2022-23, the Play Equity Fund and LA84 Foundation have served approximately 250,000 youth, and awarded nearly $12 million in grants. With your help, the organizations aim to do much more to continue to make play accessible and equitable for all kids.

The Play Equity Fund and the LA84 Foundation believe in the power of sport to build pathways to success and well-being for young people – and with this work being so crucial for kids today and for future generations – look forward to 2024.

Learn More & Join the Play Equity Movement:

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