COLUMBUS, Ohio – Usually serving 800 kids per year through programming, Ohio State’s LiFEsports (Learning in Fitness and Education through Sports) initiative has provided youth from age nine through the eighth grade quality sports and recreation programs for the better part of the last 15 years. However, as has been the case with many organizations globally over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted members of the program to discover different ways to accomplish their goals.
While the initiative is still working on ways to offer programming this summer, LiFEsports, in partnership with the Lindy Infante Foundation, has developed an At Home Guide to help support kids until it can return to in-person work.
“We started partnering with the Lindy Infante Foundation last year on some work in the community,” Rebecca Wade-Mdivanian, director of operations for the LiFEsports initiative, said. “When COVID-19 hit, Stephanie reached out asking how they might help. After thinking for a while and having my own kids bored at home, it hit me that many of our kids might not have equipment at home. I called Stephanie and we brainstormed what it might look together and created Sport in a Bag.”
Friday afternoon at the Beatty Community Center in Columbus, members of the LiFEsports initiative, the Lindy Infante Foundation and Katie Smith, Ohio State’s 1996 Big Ten Player of the Year and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, helped safely distribute Sport in a Bag kits to 200 families. Each bag included one jump rope, a basketball, soccer ball or football and a LiFEsports At Home instructional guide to help each child practice and stay fit on their own during this trying time. The distribution Friday afternoon was the first large distribution with the organization hoping to supply more in the coming weeks.
“We looked at guidelines for food pickup stations across the city and mirrored those requirements,” Wade-Mdivanian said of the Friday distribution. “For instance, all our staff were prepared to wear masks, have hand sanitizer available and wear gloves. We also asked families not to leave their cars and it was a drive-up site where we placed the bags in their cars to minimize contact.”
As the At Home guide states, sports are meant to be played with friends and on teams. Unfortunately COVID-19 has changed the world of sport. There will be a day in the future where we get to join in on a team cheer, high five our teammates, and clap hands at the end of a well-fought game. For now, however, we must continue to practice individually.