October 2, 2020
From September 28 through October 9, we are highlighting the stories and work of our 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlisters who are using sport to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all. The United States’ Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation is one of them. Learn more about the inspiring work they are doing to improve the quality of life and increase the confidence of young Angelenos.
Founded in 1995 as the charitable arm of the MLB’s iconic Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) is on a mission to be ‘Bigger Than Baseball’ for the communities it serves. Its home, the sprawling Southern California “City of Angels,” is the state’s largest city with a diverse population of approximately four million people.
However, across the larger Los Angeles County, which includes some of the richest and poorest cities and communities in the nation, large social and economic disparities are negatively impacting the health and well-being of underprivileged and underserved communities.
“The striking differences seen across the county in wealth, opportunity and environments are mirrored by stark inequalities in health…Residents in some places have rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that are more than double the rates among residents in other places,” noted Barbara Ferrer, LA County Department of Public Health Director.
“These differences are particularly tragic because they are preventable. They arise to a large degree from the inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities that people need in order to be healthy.”
Addressing the challenges and trauma caused by high poverty levels, low socioeconomic status and the need to rely on social service agencies to meet social, educational and health-related needs, LADF is running and funding programs that use the team-based sports of baseball and softball as physical and mental health prevention tools – with a strong focus on youth development.
Children under age 18 make up approximately 20% of the city’s population, with 23% of them living under the federal poverty level. According to the Foundation, low-income communities are especially vulnerable environments for youth to live, often bringing about stressors associated with poor housing, food and income insecurity, limited resources, inadequate schools and high crime and violence.
However, research shows that playing sports can have major physical, mental and emotional benefits. LADF created Dodgers RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) in 2014 to increase positive attitudes towards exercise and encourage healthy habits for its 5-18-year-old participants.
The program provides social and emotional learning (SEL) and access to health care and educational opportunities with resources including: sports equipment, fitness clinics, free vision care, mobile health clinics, nutrition education, hands-only CPR and workshops and skills training for coaches. In 2019, the program served more than 10,000 youth across 85 location, and this year, the program has gone virtual in response to the pandemic.
“In this world you are either going into a storm or coming out of one. At the end of the day all that matters is how you bounce back from it, and if you will apply everything that you have learned from your lesson, or will you crawl into a ball and wait for someone to save you. Everyone needs to be their own hero and more,” said Diamond, a past participant.
In comparison to other large urban zones, LA County lacks the park space - which also has a negative impact on advancing healthy lives. To address this, LADF has been building and refurbishing fields to provide safe places for exercise, play and community gatherings through the Dodgers Dreamfields program.
Since 2003, it has built 51 fields benefiting more than 360,000 youth in underserved communities. Its 51st field, built in June of 2019, is ADA-accessible to provide youth of all abilities to opportunity to play baseball and softball.
Another invaluable resource to supporting youth health is coaches, who improve youth health through relationship-building, positive role-modeling and mentorship. The Foundation partners with leading organizations such as Up2Us Sports and the Positive Coaching Alliance of Los Angeles to provide skill-based coaching workshops using trauma-informed coaching techniques that creating healing environments for youth, while also growing SEL attributes and improving their mental health.
Working holistically across its three primary pillars of Education + Literacy, Sports + Recreation and Health + Wellness, LADF is working to create a city “where every Angeleno, regardless of zip code, has the opportunity to thrive.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation Bigger Than Baseball program is a 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister in the Sport for Health and Well-Being category. Learn more about the rest of this year’s Shortlist and follow their journeys at beyondsport.org/journey