Youth Grant Initiative Sparks New Generation of Philanthropists

YGI Alumni take charge to raise more funds for community grant partners.

Each fall, 12 people gather to debate which nonprofit organizations should be awarded grants that meet the Multnomah Athletic Foundation’s mission. Now do a double take – because this group is made up of seventh and eighth graders. The Youth Grant Initiative teaches valuable leadership lessons through thoughtful deliberation and dive into the world of nonprofit giving with the six-week crash course culminating in the presentation of $5,000 in community grants. 

For some of the participants, this was not enough. After realizing there are often still funding gaps between the nonprofit requests and what the foundation can provide, they took it upon themselves to make up the difference.

School action project to send cancer patients to camp

Allison Dobler is an eighth-grader at Rachel Carson Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon, who besides being a member for the 2018 YGI cohort enjoys swimming and playing the tuba. She leveraged her experience with YGI for her eighth grade action project that asks each student to find an organization and to work with them over their eight grade year. 

Dobler’s personal choice to award funding was Camp UKANDU, an organization that strives to run a normal camp experience for children undergoing cancer treatment. 

“YGI asked us to think with our minds and our hearts,” said Dobler. “My mind was telling me this organization aligned with the foundations goals to increase access to athletics opportunities to other kids but it also struck my heart as someone who wants to be a doctor.”

But the YGI as a group decided to award half of the $5,000 UKANDU had requested. Allison wanted to know if she could raise the rest. 

“When Allison asked me if it was ok if she raised the additional funds to meet our request, I chuckled,” said Jason Hickox, Executive Director of UKANDU. “Her passion and compassion are compelling, but what is as amazing is the knowledge and empowerment YGI has provided these kids to actually make an impact!”

On April 6, Dobler held a silent auction fundraiser at the MAC. Her participation in YGI helped her take on organizing the event with its donation requests and many details. “We had to present why we thought Camp UKANDU should get the grant to the board of directors as part of YGI,” said Dobler. “This presentation was great training for having to ask businesses in the community for donations and allowed me to be prepared for being succinct in my ask.”

Baseball players find a way to extend access to their sport

Blaise and Brodie Heher love baseball. They’ve played since they could toss a ball or hold a bat. Naturally, they didn’t hesitate when offered a chance to volunteer at Friends of Baseball’s camps and clinics a few years ago.

But they didn’t stop there. The Heher brothers – Blaise is now a freshman at Lake Oswego High School and Brodie is in eighth grade LO Junior High – were moved by the organization’s programs.

“It was given that I would be able to play baseball, and I never had to think about buying gear or paying fees to play in leagues,” Blaise says. “I wanted to fund kids to be able to feel that way too, so they wouldn’t have to worry about buying gloves, or finding a team to play with.”

They were able to give more kids that opportunity by tapping into their passion – baseball. Blaise and Brodie organized a Wiffle ball tournament in 2018 that raised $2,500 for Friends of Baseball. And they did it with care, first establishing a program called Bring Me Home. The organization’s goal is to give underserved kids a chance to play sports.

That’s pretty impressive stuff for a couple of then junior high students. Luckily, they had a head start from Multnomah Athletic Foundation’s Youth Grant Initiative. The brothers were both involved in the 2017 program.

“The Youth Grant Initiative helped us with this process because it taught us more about nonprofits and how they work and run,” Brodie says.

Blaise and Brodie are not finished with their philanthropy. The second annual Bring Me Home Wiffle Ball Tournament is set to feature twice as many teams, and will raise more funds to give more kids access to sports. The tournament date is still to be determined. For updates, visit their website.

“What started out as a request to volunteer with Friends of Baseball so Blaise and Brodie could give back to the game they love, became something much deeper because of the Youth Grant Initiative. Not only did the Wiffle Ball Tournament provide enough funds to open a new Full Count after school program for underserved youth, Blaise and Brodie have created a model that can be replicated by other ballplayers who want to help increase access,” shared Nova Newcomer, Executive Director of Friends of Baseball.

For more information on the Youth Grant Initiative and how you can apply to be in the next cohort, please visit our Youth Grant Initiative page.

Originally published in the May 2019 issue of The Winged M magazine.