New England

New England is a tease. Hopeful leaf-peepers on the opposite coast — watching webcams and reading reports to help schedule the right flights — learn that a long-lingering New England summer delays the fall colors, and a too-early cold and wind strips the trees bare before we can get there.

Sometimes, the not knowing spices travel just right. You can plan perfectly for the Vatican or Taj Mahal, less so for a natural religious experience like the agony and the ecstasy of a New England autumn.

This fall, our schedule was set by Val’s conference attendance in Boston and the travel plans of our friends, Winky and Peter. As to leaf-peeping, in keeping with the stiff-upper-lip Calvinism that has ruled the region for four hundred years, we might get nothing and like it.

A surer thing was our first pilgrimage to Fenway Park. On the afternoon of a night game against the San Francisco Giants, Val finished her conference while I lunched with my childhood friend, Ross Bresler, at Summer Shack. We feasted on oysters and lobster roll, the first in a binge of which no Calvinist would approve.

Walking that meal off on Commonwealth Ave., Ross gave me the neighborhood download and listed his favorite Fenway haunts. I took in the art history class he teaches at Berklee College of Music and later met Val, Winky and Peter to hit the streets for a different kind of “cultchah” on the walk to Fenway.

The pre-game bar scene, especially Lansdowne Pub, heightened my decades-in-the-making anticipation. But nothing could have prepared me for the heart-skip upon entering the ballpark and then the bucket list first glimpse of the “Monstah.”

My physical reaction to the emotion of the moment shocked me. It took an hour to fully regain my breath. Head-swiveling and eye-scanning all the sights from our seats about twenty rows up from the Pesky Pole, I wondered whether it was the world’s most famous foul pole and suddenly realized its twin, struck by Carlton Fisk’s twelfth-inning homerun in game six of the 1975 World Series, might be even more famous.

What are the odds, I considered, of the two most famous foul poles standing in the same park? I both feared and embraced these mental meanderings. I worried about devoting brainspace to such minutiae and still congratulated myself on completing the pilgrimage that allowed for this foul pole epiphany.

That reverie ended at the start of a pre-game ceremonial handshake between Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and his grandfather, Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski. The sky purpled over that famous Green Monster of a leftfield wall that shadowed Yaz’s career.

The next major sensation amid so many — Italian sausage scents, “R”s-beome-“Ah”s in the local dialect, the spinal twist needed in a hard narrow wooden seat for the forty-five-degree view of home plate — was the clang of Steven Vogt’s homerun off the Pesky Pole. In fifty years of watching baseball, I’d never heard anything like it. It never occurred to me that a foul pole would clang. Whatever sound Pudge Fisk’s homerun off the leftfield foul pole might have made in 1975 was drowned out by the crowd roar.

And it was again in 2019 when the outfield video board played a Chevrolet ad showing a montage of Fisk highlights set to Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock.” Whatever else happens at Fenway, they honor their history.

And their tradition.

Pondering tradition, I asked Peter what he’d missed most about New England in the decades since he’d left. “The stoicism,” he answered with all the elan of Calvin Coolidge. Then the Giants’ bats got hot and the night got cold, and we shivered stoically through a five-run Giants’ ninth and a quiet last three outs for the Sox.

The next day, Winky and Peter left for their country house in Norwich, Vermont. Val and I started toward Portland, Maine, stopping in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to eat at Surf, on the recommendation of a Bay Area colleague, who had waited tables there. The view was spectacular.

So was the lobster roll, washed down by a bottle of Lord Hobo Brewing Co. Boomsauce, which tasted as irresistible as its name. That lobster roll, though. The bread was so soft and buttery with just the right give, and the meat so fresh and sweet and juicy, that Val showed discomfort at my deep sighs and closed eyes. It was a “When Harry Met Sally” scene, but I was not faking.

In Portland that night, my high school friend, Daphne, took us to Duckfat, where you can guess what I ordered. Then we hit Blyth and Burrows, where we had a little downstairs speakeasy room to ourselves. We talked baseball and journalism and how both could help solve the world’s problems, just as we had since our teens, and we laughed a lot of the same laughs as we had then, plus some new ones until the night faded and so did we.

Daphne toured us around the Portland waterfront the next day, explaining its history and socio-economics, and leading us into mom-and-pop shops.

We stopped at The Porthole for a lunch of you know.

After the rest of Daphne’s tour of Portland, Val and I left for Norwich. We took the straight rural backroads route across New Hampshire, over the river and through the woods, which were just starting to turn red and yellow. Dusk brought us to Winky and Peter’s farmhouse, which was built in 1792 and was somehow historically significant in the westward migration of the Mormons.

For each of the next three syrup-slow days, we enjoyed home-cooked meals and cozy hardwood smoke smells around the fireplace. We stared at the trees in their yard and beyond and thought we could see them changing by the hour. On long walks through the hillsides, we glimpsed flurries of color here and there.

One afternoon, Peter and I golfed at a Donald Ross-designed nine-hole gem called Carter Country Club, which charged a near-criminal ten dollars for the privilege. The trees lining the fairways whispered autumn glory.

Too soon, it was time to fly back across the country. On our hurried interstate drive back to Boston, we saw this last little promise.

According to the webcams, we missed the peak by three weeks. Tantalized, we will return.

Telling Your Story

Telling Your Story was the title of the panel discussion in the video below, shot at the inaugural Sports Philanthropy World event in Chicago. More than 100 delegates gained information and inspiration from the panel, including:

You can scroll below the video for highlights of the panel with a guide to timestamps.

In the first two minutes, Nicole explains the importance of story to non-profits as a means of achieving a mission and raising funds: thus the panel’s focus on providing concrete takeaways for our audience to enact.

Three minutes in, Katie addresses how critical it is to define a non-profit’s audience. “You can’t target ‘everyone in the world.’ You can’t make the most impact if you don’t know your target audience.”

At the 10-minute mark, David answers Nicole’s question about storytelling as art and science: “Every person in the organization and every person the organization impacts is potentially a story. If you impact 500 people, you have 500 stories. If you impact a million people, you have a million stories. The science is in having systems in place to get those stories. One thing I advise is to embed a marketing person as a journalist within your organization and charge them with seeking out stories. Create systems that make it as easy as possible for people to share their stories and incentivize them to do so. Use YouTube, email, social media, etc. as an intake for them to invest their hearts and souls into your organization, your brand your mission. That’s the science part. The art part is the journalist understanding what will trip the wires of whichever audience you’re targeting.”

At 12:15, Nicole asks what types of stories are most effective, and David answers: “Emotion. A natural story, focused on an individual person, who is on a journey that is immediately understandable. Anything that is simple, emotional and can be digested into a soundbite that is ready for social media.”

At 12:42, Katie adds “Emotion is incredibly important, but it’s so hard to define, it can be overwhelming. What you think may bring an audience to tears may fall flat. There’s this rule of thumb if you’re creating a story, and in the process you don’t feel anything, then don’t use it. You have to bring out one specific emotion in your audience.”

At 14:30, Marianna explains, “I want to make people identify. If I can’t make them want to feel included, and look at it, and say, ‘You know what, I see myself in that,’ then forget it, we did a bad job. Start over.”

Starting at 15:24, the panel discusses the storytelling tactics of using statistics to generate what Nicole calls the audience’s “Holy Shit moment” in realizing a story’s importance vs. focusing on an individual. Nicole on the “Holy shit” moment with stats.

About 20 minutes in, Nicole asks about a non-profit’s story “not getting lost in the noise” of constant messaging. Katie offers perspective on understanding the target audience rather than focusing just on the number of “likes” and advises to keep in mind that “we are wired to pay attention to bad news, wired to detect a threat.” At 22:04, David hails Solutions Journalism for going against that grain and serving as an outlet for positive storytelling

At 24:43, Katie tells a terrific story about storytelling, using an example of a gala video that raised thousands of dollars, but then fell flat in the organization’s newsletter. The next five minutes covers tactics in collecting and curating content to allow for re-purposing in multiple channels to a variety of audiences, including traditional news media outlets. At 31:52, Marianna suggests highlighting volunteers’ activities to share on LinkedIn to reach the volunteers’ professional networks and generate interest from new audiences.

Much of the remaining discussion is Q&A covering such topics as decisions on using internal vs. external resources for storytelling, how to tackle a story subject’s camera anxiety (even if that subject is you!), and whether/when/how to try to control your brand’s story in balance with the desire for it to go viral.

Thanks to Roy Kessel and Sports Philanthropy Network for the opportunity to tell our stories!

A Day in the Park with Wolf Pack Ninjas and KaBOOM!

It was still dark when the Lyft driver dropped off me and Snowman at Pearsall Park and sped away. The driver hadn’t wanted to go there and looked at us funny when we climbed into his car with ten thousand dollars’ worth of video gear.

Although Pearsall Park transformed “from dump to destination” about three years ago, it still is in one of San Antonio’s poorer neighborhoods. With the Lyft car vanished, the only light came from an electric sign explaining why we were there.

Snowman and I were there not to volunteer but to gather storytelling material for our mutual client, Wolf Pack Ninjas, who would help KaBOOM! build an adventure course playground that would offer a Ninja Warrior-like experience.

Wolf Pack – a group of American Ninja Warrior competitors committed to “making the world healthier one kid at a time” – and KaBOOM!, the renowned non-profit playground developer, were joining forces to provide fun and fitness opportunities to youth in underserved communities.

Soon after meeting KaBOOM! teammates who had arrived even earlier than 0-dark-hundred, the San Antonio sunrise crept over the massive mulch-pile that would gradually diminish during the day as hundreds of volunteers raked, shoveled and wheelbarrowed it into the build.

Before the event kicked off, we already were interviewing participants on camera, including extraordinary, community-minded students from the JROTC program at Southwest High School and the basketball team at East Central High School.

When the volunteers started working, it was 91 degrees. The sun was grilling, and the work was grueling, from assembling the heavy playground equipment to moving mulch to mixing cement.

But the spirit of the volunteers was remarkable. The adult leaders gave their all with great patience, and every child out there defied the stereotype of screen-addicted teen slacker. They showed pride in their community, willing to work for its improvement. They worked longer, harder and more joyously than many paid employees in much more comfortable environments, undaunted by dust and dirt, unfazed by fatigue.

The KaBOOM! crew orchestrated the volunteers with an expertise borne of building or improving 17,000 playspaces. Their concern with safety meant frequent public address reminders about hydration and sunscreen. The only other interruptions in the motivational music came during an announcement that lunch was available or when Snowman and I were conducting our on-camera interviews atop the mulch pile. Wolf Pack Co-Founder and Ninja Warrior star Ian Dory was so happy with his that he flipped.

At lunch, Ian posed for photos and signed autographs for volunteers, then went back to work right alongside them. By about 3 p.m., pieces of adventure course equipment that took six people to carry were stood in place, the 22 tons of concrete were poured, and the dust began to settle. The build was finished.

The concrete had to cure, so the course was not immediately accessible. But Ian made a great offer to the crowd to come back and play when Wolf Pack and KaBOOM! reunite in San Antonio on November 16.

Inkflow’s Cool Summer

Summer – which I have defined not by solstice and equinox but by “school’s out” ever since attending kindergarten in 1969 – was cool this year. Inkflow’s workflow made it so.

Summer started with a Fit Kids event at Levi’s Stadium on the last day of school for the students we serve in East Palo Alto, continued with gaining new Inkflow clients, and ended with amazing back-to-school initiatives. As usual, returning to my roots in Chicago and Milwaukee nourished the blooms and fruits of these labors.

In early July, The 82 Project Foundation’s annual Swine Social pig roast and fundraiser reminded me why I love serving on the non-profit’s board. Named “82” for the year our board members graduated from Whitefish Bay High School, the organization funds a scholarship for a senior graduating from our alma mater and aids community members in need of financial and emotional support.

During that visit, Inkflow linked with the Milwaukee area’s Concord Chamber Orchestra and contracted to advise the non-profit classical musical group on marketing communications strategy. A slew of stakeholder interviews, an online survey, and observations in and around CCO’s community will inform Inkflow documents that provide the organization a map for its future outreach efforts.

Also while in Milwaukee, preliminary talks from earlier weeks with San Francisco-based real estate concern Andersen, Jung & Co. turned into a short-deadline assignment to write a 90-second speech that Principal Broker Monica Chung delivered to a group of business executives.

Back in the Bay, Inkflow sealed a deal to deliver writing coaching and marketing/business development consulting for Ferox Yoga, the brain-child of yoga instructor Claire Ngoon.

Soon after, the latest issue of Saint Thomas Academy’s Saber Magazine dropped, with several of my articles, including the cover story, “Profiles in Service.”

July closed out with the launch of a new promotional video for Fit Kids, including my first voice-over work…

…and August started with a return to Chicago as a panelist on the topic of “Telling Your Story: How to Engage Your Donor Base” at the inaugural Sports Philanthropy World Congress.

About 100 delegates gained information and inspiration from the panel, including moderator Nicole Fisher (Founder of Health & Human Rights Strategies, Co-Founder of Brain Treatment Foundation and a Forbes contributor), Katie Wilkes (Freeheart Creative), and Marianna Whitehurst (Board Member for Georgia Playworks, Foundation Board of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl Advisory Board).

Back in the Bay, Inkflow forged an alliance between Fit Kids and Citizen Schools, which will have me leading Fit Kids classes for underserved middle-school students at Redwood City’s McKinley Institute of Technology. The chance to merge my passion for both non-profits into a single project that directly impacts youth and advances both organizations’ goals is a dream come true.

Then this other dream came true:

Minda, whom I informally and occasionally advised in the last several years, read from The Memo, sold and signed scores of copies, and led a rousing panel discussion with several other women of color that infused the packed room with equal parts anger and hope.

Twenty-four hours later, some of Minda’s “Memo” continued to hit home in another room of multi-culturalists, as “summer” ended with students back in school, including those who last night completed the class I teach at The Writing Salon, aptly titled — in light of Minda’s message — “On Point.”

Fit Kids on the Last Day of School

Remember the last day of elementary school before summer vacation? Your weather may have been spectacular, tantalizing you outside the classroom window, promising the freedom to run, jump, skip, throw, catch, and finally, comfortably collapse into sleep as your pent-up energy dwindles with the daylight.

There is nothing better than that mad dash out the door to the sound of the school year’s last bell. Unless you’re an East Palo Alto public school student participating in Fit Kids. Then, it does get better.

You board a bus headed to Levi’s Stadium. There, you get a t-shirt and run out the same tunnel as your football heroes, all courtesy of investment firm HGGC, the Forever Young Foundation, and the San Francisco 49ers, and then you meet Steve Young, who has led all three organizations.  

There are lessons in football and life from 49ers Youth Football head Jared Muela.

There are football drills, agility tests, music and dancing.

There are flying touchdown flops into foam endzones.

There is food and beverage and a gift bag. The ride home is much quieter. Many of the Fit Kids are fast asleep…and dreaming.

Collaborative Storytelling

Two great joys — collaboration and storytelling — recently came together on an Inkflow Communications project for Fit Kids, a non-profit client that provides structured fitness programs to underserved elementary school students. The challenge was to humanize Fit Kids’ impact, telling the story of one child to illustrate the organization’s broader value to the communities it serves.

Dramatizing a problem and its solution through the story of an archetypal individual is a go-to approach for many brands. This is especially true for non-profits that need compelling content to raise funds.

In theory, focus on a single face instead of mind-numbing numbers is the surer way to change hearts and minds. The story of one identifiable person is more moving than statistical statements about anonymous millions, which can overwhelm audiences to the point of turn-off and tune-out.

So, why doesn’t every brand take the individual storytelling approach? First, not everyone got the memo. Business leaders focused on the bottom line may fixate on figures. Also, telling an individual story in support of a brand is not an easy execution. That’s where the joy of collaboration comes in.

Telling the story of Briana in the video above took Fit Kids Founder Ashley Hunter’s commitment to this form of communications, Fit Kids Program Director Navita Wilson’s keen ear to the ground to identify Briana and her family as subjects, Inkflow’s work to bridge brand and journalism, and the extraordinary skill, emotional intelligence, storytelling instincts, and production chops of award-winning sports broadcaster Mindi Bach.

The video was a hit when it debuted at The Fit Kids Lunch fundraiser on April 30. Of course, collaboration also fueled that event’s success. But that’s a different story.

Sports Philanthropy Network Podcast with Roy Kessel

In addition to the joy of kickin’ it with Roy Kessel on his Sports Philanthropy Network podcast, we shared insights and examples that can help any non-profit or other social entrepreneurship do well by doing good. Just press play on the player embedded below, and see the timecodes for highlights by scrolling just below the player.

Start-1:55, the Inkflow Communications story

2:28, how Lesa Ukman and International Events Group set the stage for social impact in our industry

4:55, why non-profits should view sponsorships through sponsors’ eyes

7:35, how non-profits attract sponsors with story-telling and other content opportunities

10:31, the futility of playing the eyeball game

14:29, identifying sponsor prospects — Fit Kids example of protecting brand integrity

20:15, Wolf Pack Ninjas example of delivering value beyond cash

24:45, working with Saint Thomas Academy on content

26:03, how WeXL creates economic opportunity through content from diverse voices

28:39, helping entrepreneurial clients get out of their own way when it comes to marketing

31:40, clients viewing marketing communications as a long-term investment in the brand

33:37, story-telling lengthens attention span of target audiences…including executives.

Learn more about Sports Philanthropy Network and its upcoming
Sports Philanthropy World Congress!

Confirmation that Content Is King

Participating in a class last weekend with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (better known as and the NHL’s San Jose Sharks confirmed once again that content is king. The three-day class, Testing at Scale: The Sports Fan Experience, sought insights into what Sharks fans want.

The 10 of us in the class – including instructor and sports marketing maven Ward Bullard and Sharks marketers Whitney Hallock and Stacy McGranor – fanned out to meet fans in and around SAP Center. Armed with little more than Sharks trivia quiz cards, we engaged hundreds of fans, whose opinions varied widely:

“Of course, ticket prices matter.”

“Not so much. Bottom line is I need to be in the arena.”

 “More interactive TV would be great to help me understand the rules of hockey.”

“Nah, I’d rather just have my friend explain it to me.”

“Organized tailgating would be cool!”

“Maybe, as long as I am in my seat when the players skate out of the Shark’s mouth.”

Regardless of the opinions they shared on their cards and in conversation, fan behavior revealed an underlying, near-universal truth about what Sharks fans want: touch-points with Sharks content.

For example, before Friday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, some classmates set up shop at a table in the concourse. In less time than it takes to serve a cross-checking penalty, visitors could enter a drawing for a Sharks-logoed drink cooler/barbecue toolkit ($100 value) by filling out a trivia quiz card, complete with contact info and answers to market research questions.

We tried a few different hooks with passersby:

“Would you be willing to take a survey?” incited many departures at slapshot speed.

“Enter to win this Sharks cooler!” slowed some folks long enough to accept a card.

“Test your Sharks trivia skills” earned instant interest, cards grabbed, filled out on the spot, and conversations that could have continued until now.

Groups of Sharks bro’s launched into competition mode, while female fans collaborated with each other on the quiz. Seeing a past player’s name listed as a multiple-choice answer, complete strangers reminisced about whatever memory that name elicited and got people talking about the Sharks’ Cow Palace days.

To speed through-put and increase card completion, we reminded people that this was a random drawing and the accuracy of their answers would not affect their chance to win the prize. Nevertheless  they persisted pursuing the right answers, searching online and even using their phone for “lifeline” calls to their friends. Clearly, the chance to talk Sharks hockey mattered more than the $100 prize.

With all cards filled a half hour before puck drop, our class reconvened in our suite. We kept an eye on the game and the rest of our attention on outstanding presentations and conversations with Sharks President Jonathan Becher, VP Sales and Service John Castro, and Douglas Murray, a former Sharks player and co-founder of the Sharks Alumni Foundation. (Pro tip: In a Sharks suite, order the ice cream and churro dessert.)

All left the suite happy after a 4-3 Sharks win, and our class met on Saturday afternoon for a four-hour debrief of Friday’s work and to brainstorm ideas for “Testing at Scale” around Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

We decided to split into two squads. One studied the in-arena behavior and preferences of fans attending their first-ever Sharks game. The other, which blessedly included me, hit the neighborhood bars to assess appetites and attitudes around the out-of-arena pre-game experience. Questions concerned tailgating, interactive TV, where they liked to hang out in and around SAP Center…anything that could enhance their game-day engagement.

My bar was The Brit, where I was supposed to remain stationed through the first period so I could compare answers between patrons who left for the game and those who remained behind. This time, the ticket for admission to personal space was either the trivia card or a set of Sharks stickers and temporary tattoos. Again, the intangible of interacting with content proved more enticing than an actual gift.

Hustling among hundreds of fans to distribute and collect cards while also conversing, I had the sudden sensation of swimming in a sea of teal. But a half hour before puck drop, the crowd thinned out, and I was just about to do the same.

When the game started, four people, none in teal, remained at The Brit. Where I could not hear myself think 15 minutes earlier, now I could practically hear other people thinking. That sudden silence resounded with the reminder that for all the experiences available to a fan, the game is still the thing.

Back in the suite midway through the first period, I met up with Doug Bentz, the Sharks’ VP, Marketing and Digital, and summarized my observations: there is only minor interest in relatively major enhancements the Sharks could offer, but it may be better not to distract fans from consuming content.

Reaching Youth Sports Summits from Coast to Coast

Just outside the Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program’s Project Play Summit last month, I saw a good sign, literally and figuratively. Sitting on an easel, the sign read: “We envision an America in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports.”

That was a welcome sign for Fit Kids, which I was representing at the event, showing we had arrived at the right place at the right time, even as epidemics of youth obesity and other ills resulting from physical inactivity rage throughout our country. I walked past the sign into a room filled with some 400 other thought leaders in sports, fitness and youth development, who represented teams, leagues, corporations, non-profits, Olympic governing bodies, media outlets, and government agencies.

Tom Farrey, Executive Director of the Sports and Society Program and a frequent collaborator throughout the last dozen or so years of my career, welcomed us and outlined an incredible agenda, with such highlights as:

    • Strategy sessions, including one on “Reintroducing Free Play”
    • Master of Ceremonies and legendary broadcaster Mary Carillo, interviewing first Olympic Champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee and then skateboarder Tony Hawk.

Beyond the obvious star power, it was exciting to learn how all are on the front lines of youth sports and fitness issues. Hearing Kobe explain the challenges of coaching his kid’s middle school basketball team sounded eerily familiar, made us peers for a moment and provided hope for a future in which the rich, powerful and vastly experienced turn their attention to youth sports and fitness. Tony Hawk’s take on how he fit into skateboarding when he did not fit so well elsewhere sent a powerful message to millions of kids left behind by the ever-growing elite youth sports power structure.

The exchanging of ideas, stories and business cards throughout the sessions and into the evening networking event created great potential for Fit Kids to partner and collaborate with like-minded organizations. At the end of the day, all signs pointed to a bright future.

From the heights of the Project Play Summit, I flew to Los Angeles for the LA84 Foundation Summit, convening hundreds more thought leaders in our field. The event surpassed in inspiration its aspirational title: “Athlete Activism & Social Justice: Taking Action for Our Youth.”

Even before the sessions started, attendees could feel the spirit of improving the world through sports by standing in the footsteps of giants. We were given a photo-op atop a replica Olympic podium in front of a sign depicting the iconic moment when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised fists during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. We had the choice of holding one of the Olympic torches on display or donning a black glove and emulating the stance of Smith and Carlos.

Again, on the way into the working sessions, I saw signs of like-mindedness, such as an LA84 banner that read: “1 in 4 poor kids are obese. School based sports and structured play is an answer. #PlayForAll”

The on-stage content soared from the start, with opening presentations by LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril, as well as Master of Ceremonies Sal Masekela, the TV personality and son of the late South African anti-apartheid activist and musician Hugh Masekela. Other highlights, in no particular order, included:

    • “The Legacy of the 1968 Olympic Games and Its Impact Today” with James Blake (former tennis star, who suffered a police brutality incident caught on video in New York City), Tony Dungy and Mike Tirico of Sunday Night Football, and Olympic Medalists Greg Louganis and Ibtihaj Muhammad, who are outspoken on gay and Muslim issues, respectively.
    • “Why I Coach” by Serena Limas, college student, LA84 intern and 2018 recipient of Coaching Corps’ Volunteer Coach of the Year award, who gave her answer in this moving throw-down that melds essay with poetry slam.

    • A panel discussion titled “P.E. is a Social Justice Issue: Working Together to Support Our Youth” with Nichol Whiteman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, which funds Fit Kids Programs in Los Angeles; Christa Gannon, Founder and Executive Director of Fresh Lifelines for Youth, which helps prevent youth from entering or returning to the juvenile justice system; and leaders of several other organizations.

After the panel, audience members could ask questions. I practically shot out of my chair, and promptly received the roving microphone. To set context for my question, I explained Fit Kids to the crowd, mentioning our work at a dozen L.A. schools, due to funding from the Dodgers Foundation and Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation and our collaborations with Positive Coaching Alliance, LA84, and the Saint Sebastian Sports Project.

I then asked any of the panelists to compare, in light of #PlayForAll, the impact of organized youth sports to that of programs like Fit Kids, which offer structured fitness opportunities for every kid, regardless of skill level or interest in sports. The answer, essentially, was “Great question, but we’re getting the signal that we’re out of time.”

A few people approached me afterward, seeking more information about Fit Kids. All of them received our brochure and a promise, since kept, of follow-up emails to explore how our shared paths can lead to better health and fitness for more kids. All signs point to this working out very well.