Local students are combining their love of sports with community service. For the fifth year, students are gathering new and gently used sports equipment and clothing for the Santa Barbara Sports Drive.

This Sports Drive is organized by teenagers with the goal of giving sports equipment and clothing to more than 750 kids in need in the Santa Barbara community and increasing membership and participation at the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club.

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 22 at the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club. The official collection of gently used sports equipment and clothing is now in progress, and donations are urgently needed.

Bicycle giveaways have become a big part of the event. This year, the Sports Drive is again partnering with Santa Barbara High School’s SBici Bike Club, Santa Barbara Middle School’s Bike Monkeys and the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition’s BiCi Centro to collect and tune up donated bikes and to educate those children who win a bike at the Sports Drive raffle about the value and safety requirements of being a bike owner. Bike donations are also needed.

For pick-ups, call the Sports Drive hot line at 805.729.0353.

The team behind the Sports Drive is comprised of 40 students who started the program with a pair of shoes, an idea and a drive to help others. This group of young philanthropists held their first Sports Drive on April 10, 2010, at the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club after collecting gently used and new sports equipment and clothing from friends and neighbors.

Since the drive began, truckloads of goods have filled the gym at the Boys & Girls Club. Over the past four years, the Sports Drive has given out thousands of items to more than 2,000 children in our community. The goal this year is to reach out to new families and businesses to help boost donations so they can increase the number of kids they support.

“Our mission is to get kids off the street and into sports, support the Boys & Girls Club and recycle sports equipment,” junior founding member Christopher Wagonhurst said. “The concept is simple, but it takes our Sports Drive team and support from the community to make this event happen.”

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Steve Yapp, owner of Tri-Counties PODS, will be supporting the Sports Drive again this year by donating PODS to the cause. A PODS container is currently stationed at the Boys & Girls Club, 632 E. Canon Perdido St. in Santa Barbara, to accept donations through March 20. The Community Environmental Council is promoting the event to its members and will be on site supplying reusable bags to participants.

Donations are being accepted now. The drive is particularly interested in clothing and equipment for football, basketball and soccer. Please call the hot line at 805.729.0353 for pick-ups or take your items directly to the Boys & Girls Club for storage in the PODS container.

Tickets to the Sports Drive will be distributed by agencies that support children in need. These include Transition House, Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and the Boys & Girls Club. For more information about the Sports Drive, click here or connect with it on Facebook.

— Kathi Brennan King represents the Santa Barbara Sports Drive.