Dreams Take Flight Through Athletics

With MAC member support, MAF increasing access to sport and education

Pictured Above: Dillon Garg, Earl Martin, Kim Monahan, Xian Hartenstein

Whether it’s called movement, play, athletics, or sport, Multnomah Athletic Foundation (MAF) is committed to increasing access to participation and education for youth. Ultimately, it’s not the actual sport or even the precise skills that matter most it’s the life lessons acquired along the way that make a lasting impression.

When MAF funds athletic participation, youth are provided with the chance to acquire skills that extend beyond the playing field and introduce new possibilities into their lives. By supporting nonprofit organizations that support kids in underserved and underfunded communities, the foundation helps create a more equitable space for learning and opportunities.

In the spirit of MAF’s mission, four members of the MAC community share how embracing sports helped them unlock their potential, gave their dreams wings, and enhanced their lives.

The Power of Preparation

In seventh grade, Earl Martin, Multnomah Athletic Club’s new head basketball coach tried out for his junior high’s basketball team and didn’t make it. Ten students were selected, and he was the eleventh. “Missing making the team by one really stayed with me,” Martin explains. “I told myself I was not going to let that happen again, so I put in the extra time.” His efforts paid off. When he tried out the following year, he made the team. As gratifying as that was, for Martin the most important part of the story was learning that his work ethic was directly related to achieving his goals.

Martin’s commitment to basketball, and to what it takes to play well, became a throughline in his life. He went on to play junior varsity and varsity basketball in high school, which led to a college basketball scholarship to Oregon State University, and, ultimately, a professional coaching career.

He notes that playing college basketball was exciting and there were certainly peak moments like sinking two free throws in the final seconds of a close game for the win which he attributes to many hours of practice. He points out that the greater reward was that basketball provided him with a path to higher education.

When asked to sum up what he’s learned from basketball, Martin cites a consistent work ethic. “Basketball taught me about the power of preparation. Whether it’s a game, a job interview, or your career, when you’re prepared, that’s when you can be your best.”

Thriving Through Teamwork and Good Communication

As a freshman at Jesuit High School, 14-year-old Dillon Garg has a demanding schedule that includes schoolwork, an active social life, and playing on a club baseball team.

Baseball has shown him the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and a sound work ethic. In particular, the work ethic serves him well with the sport and his studies. “You can’t slack off during a game, and you can’t slack off studying, either,” he says.

The sport also has a social component that has allowed him to build meaningful relationships that go beyond the game. “Since baseball has a slower pace than other sports, you tend to have more time to connect with your teammates. In some ways, you are hanging out with your friends during a game,” he explains. Garg notes that baseball demands effective teamwork and communication. “You can’t play good baseball if you don’t have good team chemistry.”

His knowledge of baseball has also influenced his community work. As a MAF Youth Grant Initiative (YGI) cohort member, his understanding of the value of sport helped him assess various nonprofits applying for grant funding through the foundation.

His expertise came into play again for a community event with Special Olympics Unified Sports, where high school baseball players play a game alongside youth athletes.

Clearing Hurdles, Humility, and Respect

MAC Scholar Athlete Xian Hartenstein hails from an active family. Her father was an All-American in hurdles, and her mother is a strong swimmer having grown up on the beaches in Busan, South Korea. Hartenstein, a 17-year-old junior at Westview High School, attributes her interest in track and field, and swimming, to her parents. Currently, Hartenstein is captain of the varsity hurdles and sprint team and started playing varsity water polo this fall.

“Sport is the ultimate teacher,” she says. “Through athletics I have learned the importance of resiliency, integrity, and respect. It’s also taught me the importance of humility, since in sports there are always different outcomes.”

Through athletics, and her interactions with coaches and fellow teammates, Hartenstein has discovered she enjoys socializing with all kinds of people both young and old. “Everyone has a story worth hearing,” says Hartenstein.

As a child, Hartenstein experienced pulmonary edema, and it looked like the condition might limit her ability to play sports and steer her more towards academics. As it turns out, she excels at both. “Having experienced a health issue as a child makes me grateful every day for my opportunities,” she explains.

Athletics has also helped her discover new possibilities. During her sophomore year, her hurdles performance improved quickly, and it became apparent if she continues on her current trajectory, she could potentially compete in college. “I always ran just for fun, then competitive track and field led to more opportunities,” says Hartenstein. “It opened a door.”

Discovering Sport and Developing Confidence

Although Kim Monahan participated in sports in her youth, she connected more seriously with them as an adult. In particular, her husband was passionate about skiing and their daughters participated in ski racing at Mt. Hood. Monahan skied occasionally while growing up, but it was when her daughters started to learn that she was exposed to the sport on a regular basis.

“When my girls were small and just learning to ski, I would hold them between my knees, and we would go down the hill together. That’s how I started spending more time on the hill. Then they started taking lessons, and so did I. Now, I am a confident skier, which is something I developed as an adult.

“Prior to picking up skiing, I was confident socially and professionally, but not athletically,” says Monahan. “I was a teacher, and as a teacher you talk a lot about grit — a student’s willingness to work at something and the ability to prepare. Skiing helped me develop athletic grit.”

Monahan’s connection to sports does not stop with skiing, and she has completed three sprint triathlons. Her husband and daughter Jacqui, who is currently a foundation board member, were the first to participate in triathlons. Now several family members partake, including sons in- law and grandsons. Monahan notes that along with the physical benefits, triathlons have created opportunities for new social connections and family bonding, which she finds rewarding.

She continues to explore new activities. Recently, she and husband, Doug, got into mountain biking. “We aren’t daredevils, but we do enjoy getting out and riding the trails,” she says. Her youngest daughter commented that she thought it was cool her parents picked up a new sport at their age. “Without intending to, somehow our choices have inspired our children, and that’s a win.”

The Multnomah Athletic Foundation enables underserved youth in the community with access to the environment, coaches, and resources that are needed to fully participate in life. This work is made possible through financial support, and volunteered time and talent. Learn more about the amazing nonprofit partners and educational scholarships at MultnomahAthleticFoundation.com.

Written by Laurie Harquail, photos by Craig Mitchelldyer, graphic design by Katie Larson

Originally published in the December 2021 issue of The Winged M Magazine.