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Tough times for one family adds up to helping others.
In 2009, Karen Schultz lost her job and had to cut yoga from her schedule to stay financially afloat and care for sons Jonah and Jake. Her lucrative job at Washington Mutual had vanished practically overnight, along with the entire company, leaving the single mom not only bewildered but, without her yoga, also sluggish and unmotivated.
Karen wasn’t the only one feeling the pinch: Jonah and Jake, today ages 11 and 13, had to give up hockey; the cost was just too much for the then-Huntington Woods mom to absorb. It was during that difficult time that an idea sprouted amongst the three of them.
“I was telling my sons I need to do something to keep busy,” says Schultz, a member of Temple Israel, who now lives in Bloomfield Hills with the boys. “My son said, ‘Why don’t we just do something with sports, like give kids equipment that doesn’t fit us anymore?’”
So they held a two-day sports equipment drive and managed to fill an entire truck to the brim, and that’s how Score4Kids was born.
Today, Score4Kids is a registered nonprofit organization that collects and distributes gently used sports equipment to any kid in need, including basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, football, rollerblading, snowboarding, skiing and golf gear. It’s quickly gaining traction by filling an important, but often neglected, need in the Jewish community and beyond: The need to help parents, schools and camps get and keep their kids involved in organized sports, despite the often steep prices involved.
“Sometimes we’ll dress an entire kid in hockey gear from head to toe,” Schultz says. Score4Kids will even help pay registration fees for classes and leagues.
“Karen is a wonderful person who really needs the support from community members; she has the right cause,” says Ali Sayed of H.Y.P.E Athletics, a local organization that provides athletic and social services to at-risk youth and low-income families and is currently building a new recreation center in Dearborn Heights and partnering with Score4Kids.
H.Y.P.E. headquarters will be a drop-off location for Score4Kids, which, in turn, is helping collect classroom and office furniture for H.Y.P.E.’s new location.
The strategy is part of Schultz’s plan to expand Score4Kids into a powerhouse charity that can employ local talent and spread the message of giving to children through educational programs.
Dozens of families and institutions already have benefited from Score4Kids’ donations, like Yeshivas Darchei Torah of Southfield. Aside from donating his own family of eight’s used gear, school administrator Rabbi Ahron Baruch has collected basketballs, footballs, volleyballs, soccer balls and hockey sticks for the school’s gymnasium.
“We’re a nonprofit, and when the balls go bad, replacing them can cost a lot, so it’s helpful to get them from Karen,” says Baruch. “She has helped a lot of people in the community. If you have five children, that’s a lot of money for equipment.”
Jack Berkey, 13, of West Bloomfield, incorporated Score4Kids into his bar mitzvah project this past September. Party invitations asked guests to bring equipment to the sports-themed party to be donated to Miracle League, a Southfield baseball field for children with disabilities, and Score4Kids. Lisa Berkey, Jack’s mom, says they donated approximately 130 pieces of equipment to Score4Kids alone.
“Sports is something Jack cares about, so if he can help some children get some sports equipment, of course, that is meaningful for him,” says Berkey. “Sports has always been part of his life.”
Schultz encourages other kids to donate to Score4Kids as part of their mitzvah projects.
Score4Kids’s community impact recently resulted in a delightful surprise for Schultz when she was honored as part of the Detroit Pistons’ “Come Together” Program, which celebrates community champions across Michigan.
Schultz and nearly 75 Score4Kids recipients and donors attended the Detroit Pistons vs. L.A. Lakers game on Tuesday, March 6, where she was recognized on the Palace’s video boards.
“I love doing this. I love being a mom and I know how little things can really help,” she says.
To learn more or donate, go to Score4KidsMi.com and connect with them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. To nominate an individual or group for the Pistons’ Come Together program, go to www.pistons.com/cometogether for a nomination form.
By Jessica Naiman, Special to the Jewish News