The organization has grown, and the three now lead a group of about 35 teens who are trying to make a difference in the community.
Their mission is simple:
» 1) Get kids off the streets and into sports.
» 2) Introduce kids to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
» 3) Recycle used sports equipment and clothing.
“We got the idea from playing all types of sports growing up and realizing we had no use for the piles of equipment in our garages,” Conk said. “The lack of a good cause to donate it to was probably our inspiration. This is our third annual sports drive, and our goal is to help 2,000 kids this year. Last year we helped around 1,200 and gave away over 4,000 pieces of equipment.”
The Sports Drive team collects the donated sports equipment and clothing in the fall and early winter from drop locations at various local schools, including Montecito Union, Laguna Blanca, Crane Country Day, Marymount, Bishop Garcia Diego, El Montecito, Santa Barbara Middle School and Cold Spring.
Once the donations are collected and prepared, tickets to the Sports Drive are distributed to various agencies that support kids in need, including Transition House, CASA and Boys & Girls Club members. The agencies then distribute the tickets directly to the kids in need so they can come to the Sports Drive event, set for next Saturday, Feb. 25, this year.
At the event, kids can select the sports equipment and clothing they need. Each ticket is good for a designated number of free items at the event, such as sports clothing, shoes, gloves, bats, balls, bikes, basketballs, baseballs, footballs and other sports stuff. The group also holds a raffle during the event to award the larger donated items such as bicycles, golf clubs, tickets to events, surf boards and portable backboards.
Santa Barbara families are encouraged to look in their closets and garages for unused sports equipment and donate to the cause by Friday. To donate, email or call the Sports Drive hot line at 805.729.0353 to arrange a drop-off or pick-up time.
“Working on this project has really put things in perspective for me,” Bittleston said. “To watch something like a soccer ball go from someone who hasn’t used it in years to someone who treats it as their prized possession is truly rewarding.”
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— Tara Broucqsault is the director of communications for Laguna Blanca School.