MT. VERNON — — United Way of South Central Illinois has launched a new donation drive to collect athletic equipment for area children.
Organizers hope the drive, known as “Play it Forward,” will encourage more kids to sign up for school athletics and other similar activities.
Many times, the high cost of athletic equipment can be a barrier for children getting involved in organized sports, said Rhonda Edmonson, executive director of the local United Way.
“It can get quite expensive,” Edmonson said. “All those things can really add up to a family that's struggling financially to meet bills.”
The drive has been underway for a few weeks, but the first major collection day took place Saturday at the YMCA of Jefferson County. Saturday was the annual United Way National Day of Action.
On that date, local residents were encouraged to drop off any gently used or new sports gear at the Y, including balls, shoes, athletic clothing, bats, gloves, nets, rackets, helmets, safety equipment and more.
Edmonson said the public may continue to drop off donated items at the YMCA or the local United Way office, at 802 S. 42nd St., until early August.
All the equipment will be cleaned and repaired by United Way volunteers. Then the items will be distributed to children in need at the Sixth Annual Stuff the Bus Distribution event on Aug. 16 at Jungle Gyms on Route 15 West, across from Sonic.
Stuff the Bus is a donation drive to collect school supplies for local kids. United Way officials decided to hold the Play it Forward program in conjunction with this year's Stuff the Bus, Edmonson said.
At the distribution event, United Way officials will encourage children to sign up for activities with the YMCA, Jefferson County Sports Authority and Woodlawn Community Foundation, as well as to participate in school athletics and physical education, Edmonson said.