What’s Going on…

Fall 2017 Newsletter from the Multnomah Athletic Foundation

The Little Grant That Could

“Have you heard of Multnomah Athletic Foundation?” That was the question from a foundation board member that started it all.

In my first year as Executive Director (and the only employee) of Friends of Baseball, I was eager to find leaders and organizations who were of similar hearts and minds when it comes to what athletics can do for a child and in a community.

I knew immediately that the Foundation’s grant program was a great values fit for our organization’s work ¬– enhancing children’s lives through baseball’s power to teach. What I didn’t know were the ways in which our organization’s trajectory would change as a result.

Comprehending the grant-funding world can get a bit wonky. Yet it is absolutely critical to understand how a powerful, niche funder like Multnomah Athletic Foundation can help an organization such as Friends of Baseball grow our impact in the community.

When we received news of our initial MAF grant award in 2015, it was the first funded grant allocated to our pilot Full Count program. That opening Full Count program – held at Jefferson High School for 7 to 11-year-old elementary school children – kicked off a chain of events that has propelled our organization to make an even greater difference in the community. The overall impact included a $10,000 field grant from the Seattle Mariners and MLB’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund, significant grants from Juan Young Trust, and a program expansion grant from the NIKE Employee Impact Fund in 2016. It culminated this year in a capacity-building grant from Oregon Community Foundation that allowed us to hire our second staff member (a grant that the MAF Board awarded matching funds for).

In the first 18 months of our Full Count afterschool and summer program, we served 225 students in the Portland Metro area. We also trained more than 10 high school students in mentoring and coaching skills through our Full Count Fellows program.

For small-but-mighty nonprofits, as in baseball, all it takes is one base hit to get a rally going. Thanks to the first “little grant that could” from Multnomah Athletic Foundation, we are doing more than putting runs on the board, we are making sure every child has the opportunity to swing for the fences on the field and in life.

Nova Newcomer, Friends of Baseball Executive Director

The Secrets to Successful Scholarships

Tenacity is key to both athletic and scholastic success, and the Loprinzi Scholarship awards hard workers with the kind of assistance that can keep them focused. Scholarships play an important role in making college more accessible and affordable, as well as paving the way for a student’s success in life. The most obvious benefit of scholarships is easing the financial burden of higher education, but they also reduce the need for a job while going to school. Even a part-time job takes time and energy away from schoolwork. This can reduce a student’s likelihood of participating in experiential learning opportunities, or of graduating altogether.

Persistence is crucial to college success, and it was also a hallmark of Joe Loprinzi’s way of life. The scholarship bearing his name is awarded annually to several focused and tenacious young athletes pursuing their dreams in college.

We asked two of the 2017 Loprinzi Scholarship recipients how they would define success in three or four words:

Austin Chang is a swimmer who graduated with a full International Baccalaureate diploma from Sunset High School, and is attending UCLA. His answer? “Success is creating impactful change.”

Jordan Ashmore also is a swimmer, and graduated with honors and a host of Advanced Placement courses from Aloha High School. She is attending Columbia University this fall. She answered: “Success is not succinct.”

Keep Your Ears to the Playground

If you haven’t yet heard of Harper’s Playground, keep your ears and eyes open. One might be coming to a neighborhood park near you!

Harper’s Playground was originally inspired by one young girl, Harper Goldberg, who recently turned 12. She lives in North Portland with her parents, her younger sister Lennon, and her dog, Millie. Because of a disability that limits her mobility, she uses wheels to get around.

One summer day when Harper was four – and learning to walk with the aid of a pint-sized yellow walker – she and her family set out for their local playground. What they found was a sight seen in countless parks and school yards across the country: a plastic “post-and-platform” structure placed neatly within an expanse of wood chips.

This setup is so common that most don’t stop to consider the ins and outs of playground design. But Harper and her family literally had to stop where the wood chips started because they were nearly impossible to navigate on wheels. Even if Harper could have gotten to the structure, she couldn’t use it due to a lack of stairs.

That day, the Goldbergs resolved to build a better playground.

Quickly their goal grew and evolved. It came to encompass not only Harper’s needs, but also the broad science of play, the power of good design, and the needs of the entire community.

Those ubiquitous, big, colorful structures do not work well for kids like Harper. Less immediately evident, though no less problematic, is the notion that such structures don’t work well for ANY kids. Some argue that they are not fun, not truly playful. Vibrant, engaging, imaginative, social play is a key ingredient in physical, cognitive and social development.

Starting with this assumption, a grassroots team of designers, community members, landscape architects and dreamers came together to create a new vision for what a playground could be:

1. Unstructured, creative free play: Kids are innately creative and curious; they crave and thrive on imagination and exploration. An open, smooth-surfaced, natural-feeling landscape inspires creativity with adaptable play features interspersed among winding paths, seating and open spaces.

2. Nature play: People of all ages thrive in natural settings. Harper’s Playground’s iconic hill feature, its natural materials, and its integration into and under existing tree canopy, create an environment that reflects both the serenity and the liveliness of nature.

3. Social play: Social engagement is a critical component of play. Harper’s Playground intentionally creates a space where children not only play, but play together. In this environment, children: see similarities and value differences in peers from a young age, learn cooperative behaviors, develop friendships, and form lifetime values.

The flagship Harper’s Playground at Arbor Lodge Park in North Portland opened in 2012. Rain or shine, it was infused with new life and vibrancy, and the positive feedback flooded in. Galvanized, the group behind Harper’s Playground formed an independent nonprofit aimed at replicating this magic in as many communities as possible.

Next up is Couch Park on Northwest 20th and Glisan.

Thanks to hundreds of supporters, including the generous Multnomah Athletic Foundation, the project is fully funded! Construction begins this fall, and an inclusive, engaging, innovative new playground will be open in the summer of 2018.

Play is a powerful tool. Changing the typical playground can change the world for the better. Such a transformation removes barriers to inclusion, increases outdoor play and social engagement, fosters healthy community connections, and instills lifetime values of social acceptance and engagement in the next generation.

Come out and play! Learn more at www.harpersplayground.org

What we’re reading for INSPIRATION.
7 Ways To Talk About Your Athletic Experience on a Job Interview (Fast Company). Keep Your Eye on the Balls to Become a Better Athlete (New York Times). Time to Reboot Grantmaking (Stanford Social Innovation Review).