Source: Good Sports Quincy, MA, May 22, 2013 - In the past decade, more than 500,000 kids have hit the country's fields and courts with donated uniforms, shoes, balls and other equipment, thanks to Good Sports, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit dedicated to partnering with manufacturers to provide youth with sporting goods. Now, the organization is celebrating the donation of $8.8 million in sports and fitness equipment over 10 years, as well as more than a half-million kids outfitted for physical activity. An inaugural donation of 500 basketballs from Spalding, donated to local Boston-area sports organizations, kicked the program off in 2003. Since then, Good Sports has expanded from Massachusetts to 41 states across the country, serving youth in 22 diverse sports - from volleyball to boating, soccer to gymnastics. To date, the nonprofit has helped more than 1,000 youth sports teams, leagues and clubs, channeling donated sports equipment from top-of-the-line manufacturers to organizations in need. As a result, 69 percent of recipient organizations reported serving more youth, while 68 percent dropped participation costs for families; 64 percent started new athletic programs. Melissa Harper and Christy Keswick, the organization's executive duo and members of the founding team behind Good Sports, believe all kids deserve the chance to play, and receive the vast health and social benefits of regular activity, regardless of where they live and family income. Looking ahead, Harper and Keswick hope to build on the nonprofit's impressive first decade of growth, as they believe at least five million more kids need help getting on the field. "Physical activity is critical for child development, not only physically but academically and emotionally," Good Sports CEO Melissa Harper said. "Kids from advantaged backgrounds should not be the only ones to benefit from sports and fitness. All kids should have the opportunity to play, and we are committed to making that a reality." Good Sports' success stems from its mutually-beneficial partnership model, which since inception has included 114 relationships with sporting goods manufacturers and corporations. Partners benefit from channeling donation requests through Good Sports, generating a strong return on investment, in addition to the positive marketing and public relations benefits. Equipment partners, like New Balance, Easton-Bell Sports, Reebok and Wilson, further benefit through significant operational efficiencies gained through a donation partnership with the organization, as it allows them to easily shed surplus products. Good Sports also collaborates with numerous corporate partners, including several Fortune 500 companies. Professional athletes and teams also partner to deliver donations and serve as role models; pro partners include Will Middlebrooks of the Boston Red Sox, Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, Carl Landry of the Golden State Warriors and Corey Wooten of the Chicago Bears, as well as pro sports teams, including the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia Eagles. Good Sports' model works because all parties recognize the pressing need to support American sports and fitness programs. Children benefit from constructive outlets and physical activity, and today's kids are in dire need of healthy opportunities. One in three American children are overweight or obese, a number that has more than tripled since 1980, even as fitness and athletic opportunities decline, particularly in urban areas. The 2008 U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least one hour of daily activity for youth, but research shows only 42 percent of children between 6 and 11, and only 8 percent of teens, accomplish this. In fact, more than 50 percent of kids stop playing sports by 12 years old. Good Sports serves youth up to 18 years old in diverse communities - from 16,000 kids at a popular Boston community center to small teams in Iowa farmland - in a cohesive, passionate effort to counteract these negative and unhealthy trends. About Good SportsGood Sports helps lay the foundation for healthy, active lifestyles by providing athletic equipment, footwear and apparel to disadvantaged young people nationwide. By partnering with sporting goods manufacturers, Good Sports gets crucial equipment to kids who need it most, getting them in the game. Since 2003, Good Sports has provided more than $8 million worth of equipment to 1,000 youth programs, impacting more than 500,000 kids.

Emily Attwood is Managing Editor of Athletic Business.