PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A few weeks ago Gregg Levante and a few friends were playing in a men's hockey league at the Boys and Girls Club and met some young children in awe of the game. The children said they would love to play but couldn't.
The city resident and his friends assumed they didn't know how to skate and were ready to help teach them. But then they realized the children couldn't play because they couldn't afford the equipment, league fees and rink time.
Playing all levels of sports together, they knew how old equipment can pile up, and they know a lot of the teachers and coaches in the city, so they figured there had to be a way to match up children whose families couldn't afford the sports with those who have more than they need.
And the Berkshire Sports Project was born.
Its stated mission is "to provide every child in Berkshire County with an equal opportunity to participate in sporting events."
"We all feel like sports have a role in developing who we are," Levante said on Thursday. "There are kids out there that have used equipment."
With the winter sports seasons approaching, the group of five friends took action to first create an online forum on Facebook. They're in the process of reaching out to coaches and schools to find out exactly how many children need help and who can help "fill the void."
"If you don't have a baseball glove, you aren't going to ask others to play," Levante said. "We want to make that connection for the people."
He hopes the newly created Facebook page will be a spot for classifieds-type postings. If someone knows a child in need of certain equipment, they would be able to post the size and type on the wall and those who could help will be able to reach out.
Levante remembers having to pay fees to run high school track and being on teams competing in championship games that require additional entry fees. With more and more high schools requiring entry fees, the friends hope their new group will eventually be able to help there, too.
"The end goal would be to have a fully operation system where every child who wants to participate can," Levante said. "No kid will go without."
Levante said he has already reached out to sports clinics and asked if they'd be willing to provide free group lessons.
But, he is careful to say the project is in its infancy and is looking for additional feedback and information about how to craft the initiative to be the most effective.
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