ARLINGTON, Va. – Through its collection program with Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation and the Capitals, local nonprofit Leveling The Playing Field (LPF) collected more than 1,600 items from October 2015-March 2016, ranging from helmets and sticks to jerseys and skates and beyond.
As a result, several area schools and organizations have been able to expose nearly 20,000 area youth to hockey in recent months.
LPF was founded to give underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy athletic involvement. By collecting and distributing donated equipment, LPF allows youth sports organizations to redirect funds they had allocated for the purchase of gear for other purposes.
"The price of hockey equipment has driven many low income families away from getting their kids involved in the great game of hockey,” said Max Levitt, LPF executive director. “Through this partnership with MSE Foundation we were able to collect more than $75,000 worth of hockey gear that allowed us to help thousands of families overcome that barrier to entry."
Among the organizations impacted by LFP is The Washington Wheelers Blind Hockey Club. The club offers opportunities to visually impaired and completely blind youth and adults who would like to play ice hockey. Earlier this year, Wheelers co-coach Tina Butera, a local optometrist, reached out to LPF to acquire new helmets for an ice hockey clinic. In response, the organization provided 730 items for the event.
“Leveling The Playing Field had an incredible impact on the blind community in Washington, D.C.,” said Wheelers co-coach Craig Fitzpatrick. “LPF was the difference between our clinic being a 12-person event and a 70-person event.”
The organization’s reach also extends to Fort Dupont Ice Arena, Washington, D.C.’s only public indoor ice rink and the only skating facility in the area that provides free or subsidized skating programs for children.
In March, Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer participated in a practice with children from the Fort Dupont Cannons and the Kids on Ice program. During the event, LPF donated equipment collected at Capitals rink partner ice rinks during the course of the season, including sticks, gloves and helmets.
According to Fort Dupont Ice Arena program director Leticia Moreno Enos, the donation from LPF and MSE Foundation increased Fort Dupont’s amount of quality equipment, which further allowed the organization to engage more students with USA Hockey’s learn-to-play hockey program at little to no cost for participants.
“Equipment is often a prohibiting factor for low income families to participate in sports,” said Moreno Enos. “By providing the Kids On Ice students with equipment, we were able to remove those cost barriers so that all students can participate, no matter their socio-economic background.”
The opportunity to play hockey has an impact on participants off the ice as well.
“Participation in Kids On Ice improves self-esteem and provides a healthy activity that may improve a child’s participation in academics and provide lessons on the ice that can be applied to life,” said Moreno Enos.
LPF’s impact also reaches several area schools, including Montgomery County’s Seneca Valley High School. Physical education teacher Brady Markel reached out to LPF and requested help replacing their mostly outdated and damaged P.E. equipment. Knowing few of his students had ever been exposed to the sport, he specifically expressed interest in hockey equipment.
LPF was able to donate 73 items and nearly 1,200 Seneca Valley students ranging from 13-21 years old started playing street hockey as a result.
Additional beneficiaries included Govans Elementary School (Baltimore, Md.), Eagle Academy Public Charter School (Washington, D.C.), Maryland School for the Blind (Baltimore, Md.), Dreams for Kids (Washington, D.C.) and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington (Germantown, Md.).
LPF and MSE Foundation will continue their partnership this year, collecting equipment donations at local rinks starting again this fall. MSE Foundation also will host its first basketball collection at Wizards SummerFest on Wednesday, July 6, at Verizon Center.