Fit Kids will give roughly 200 pieces of sports equipment to underserved youth, thanks to the unique efforts of Jackson Aldrich – a Menlo School junior, who founded Sports Share at age nine to collect and donate equipment to less-fortunate children – and Ethan Friesel, a Menlo School sixth-grader. The two recently visited Fit Kids headquarters to drop off basketballs, soccer balls, cleats and basketball and running shoes.
Aldrich started Sports Share after noticing a disparity in equipment while playing in a 4v4 soccer tournament. “We realized the players from the East Valley YMCA team had poor gear or no gear,” he said. “I started collecting gear from my club, Red Star Soccer, and from there branched out to baseball, basketball, and lacrosse equipment.”
In the course of his work with East Valley YMCA, Aldrich recalled, “Mr. Guzman there told me he’d noticed one of the youth basketball players running funny and then realized he was wearing two left shoes. He could not afford shoes, and we were able to donate some so that he could play correctly.”
Friesel got on board as part of preparation for his bar mitzvah this coming September, which calls for him to engage in acts of tikkun olam (repairing the world). “I’ve always loved all sports and play lacrosse, soccer and basketball,” he said. “I have been a volunteer with the Challenger Baseball League for three years, where I am partnered with a player with special needs. I have loved watching these athletes participate in the game they love.
“I am so fortunate to participate in sports and have the equipment I need to be successful. Many kids would love to play sports and don’t have the equipment or even the shoes they need to play. I wanted to volunteer for tzedakah – the act of charitable giving. I was excited to collect the equipment kids need to play and to get to know the organizations and personally deliver the equipment. Jackson has been a great mentor. I look forward to continuing work with Sports-Share and Jackson after my bar mitzvah.”
The two tapped into Menlo School’s collection bins for used equipment, as well as friends and family to donate, Friesel said. “We spent time sorting and organizing everything to donate and making sure it was usable and not damaged. We were especially careful with the sneakers and cleats to make sure they had laces, insoles, and good tread.
“We decided to donate to Fit Kids because they donate locally and take in a wide variety of gear. My mom has known Ashley Hunter and supported Fit Kids for several years, so I know that many public schools in our community do not have physical education programs and Fit Kids brings PE to them after school. We were so excited that they had direct ties to the community to easily share with kids the items we’d collected.”
Aldrich, whose efforts have contributed more than 5,000 pieces of equipment to various organizations, is driven by the role sports and fitness have played in his life and should play in the lives of all kids. “Sports can teach teamwork, and they’re a great stress-reliever and build a strong mentality in children,” he said. “For money to be the only reason that some kids can’t play sports is just so unfortunate.”