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The Pincus Family Foundation: Supporting Community-Driven Sports Spaces

Return to Play Fund Partner Spotlight

November 3, 2023 

In 2021, Beyond Sport and ESPN created the Return to Play Fund (RTPF) to use sport to promote youth mental and physical wellbeing, address racial inequities and increase access to safe facilities for recreation in the US. The initiative was in response to the substantial social, economic, health and access to play disparities in Black and Brown communities which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With communities of color and low-income communities historically having less access to safe recreational facilities, a key RTPF focus area is infrastructure. We are therefore proud to have the Pincus Family Foundation as a Funding Partner aligned to its work to support equitable access to play and recreation.

Founded in 2005 by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based philanthropists David and Geraldine Pincus, the Pincus Family Foundation (PFF) is dedicated to learning first-hand about the challenges children face worldwide and helping to address those challenges. It partners with like-minded organizations to advance the physical, social and emotional well-being of under-served children in under-resourced communities by increasing access to safe and equitable play spaces and culturally relevant programs. 

"Children residing in neighborhoods where disadvantage is concentrated are marked by a lack of resources and opportunity and are less likely to have safe outdoor spaces to play, or even adequate places to engage in physical activity," said Pincus Family Foundation Executive Director, Danielle Y. Scott. "Through play, children cultivate fundamental skills for communicating, learning, exploring, problem-solving and building an understanding of the world and their role within it.  PFF believes that every child deserves the opportunity to develop to their full potential and views play and recreation as essential components."  

Through its partnership with the RTPF, this year PFF is supporting the refurbishment of four sports spaces and the subsequent educational programming running at the sites. The builds are being led by global nonprofit, love.fútbol, which partners with underserved communities to create, reclaim and redefine sports spaces as sustainable platforms for social change. Projects are fully collaborative, ensuring that community members are active partners in the process, and include a strong focus on sustainability.

Following the transformations, national nonprofit RISE, which educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations, leads on targeted programming. Through workshops and training sessions, local organization leaders and staff take part in important and frank conversations about race, perceptions and stereotypes. Sessions cover topics such as implicit bias, perspective-taking and diversity concepts.

The Pincus Family Foundation helped support four sport spaces this year! Read about the projects below:  

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BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF BROWARD COUNTY – North Lauderdale, Florida 

Opened on May 1, the Broward County Boys & Girls Clubs (BGCBC) pitch is located in a county in the Miami metropolitan area where 84% of inhabitants are African American and Hispanic and 22% of families live below the poverty line. In collaboration with local community volunteers, love.fútbol transformed an underutilized space to create a new soccer mini pitch that is also being used for flag football, basketball and cheerleading by BGCBC, other chapters and area schools.

“This new sports space will have a major impact because children are currently playing in unsafe conditions on the street and they will now have a safe space to play, connect and grow,” said BGCBC Project Manager, Temperance Cascoe

RISE and BGCBC have also been collaborating on a leadership program that is helping students of various backgrounds to share and better understand each other’s perspectives, with activities and dialogue focused on relationship building. Over 25 participants have attended each of the sessions to date. 

“As a parent that moved from Ohio to Florida, BGCBC has made the transition easier. The Club is a place for kids to learn and grow and with this new pitch, they will have an opportunity to continue growing and learning while doing fun activities,” said ShaJuanda Bruner.

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MAX MYERS PARK - Philadelphia, PA

Opened on August 14, the Max Myers Park pitch is located in an ethnically and racially diverse area of Northeast Philadelphia with many kids come from refugee or immigrant backgrounds. 20% of residents live below the poverty level and obesity and asthma levels have been rising among young people.

FC Max Myers, operated by international nonprofit and project partner, The Sports Creative (TSC), runs a free community soccer and youth development program on the site which is attended by hundreds of local children in partnership with love.fútbol and Manchester City F.C.

“I’m so excited that we have a new soccer cage! I can’t wait to play. Every child should be able to play safely,” said FC Max Myers player, Elham, originally from Afghanistan. 

During a site “Build Day,” community members of all ages came out to beautify and revitalize the space. At the opening, which included Pennsylvania State Representative Jared Solomon, over 25 countries were represented.

Since then, the community has held activities ranging from afterschool movement-based classes to Kangoo exercise mom and child programs to youth and adult soccer on the site. RISE programming will begin in the summer of 2024 and will also include sessions relevant to refugee and non-English speaking youth co-developed with TSC.

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SAMUEL PARK RECREATION CENTER – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  

Opened on September 10, the second Pennsylvania site is in “River Wards” at the border of North Philadelphia and Northeast Philadelphia. Historically encompassing a large Polish immigrant/Polish American community, it has diversified to include a large Hispanic and Latino population. 36% of residents live below the poverty level. With three other recreational spaces in the area closed due to construction projects or lead contamination, Samuel Park is the only available play space, though it needed refurbishment. 

The recrecreation center is used year-round by many groups, including 400+ children who take part in soccer and basketball programs. Bolstered by remarkable community-led fundraising efforts from the Friends of Samuel Recreation Center and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and additional support from MLS’s Philadelphia Union, the project expanded from a single to a double multi-sport pitch – love.fútbol’s first ever in the US – to meet the high demand for space. 

“Our goal is to bring life back to Samuel Recreation Center by creating a safe and fun-filled environment for everyone, which is what this amazing space allows us to do. We are able to provide an encouraging atmosphere by offering opportunities that enable our children to learn, develop and enjoy sports as well as unite the community,” said Karen Stiles, community leader and Friends of Samuel Recreation member. 

With the addition of the new space, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is looking to add up to two more U-10 soccer teams and autumn basketball programming will continue into the spring. Samuel Park will also be able to increase its recreational activities. RISE sessions started in October for young people aged 12 and up.

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SANDTOWN WINCHESTER – Baltimore, Maryland

Opened on November 11, the Sandtown sports space is located in a historically Black area of West Baltimore. It is part of the New Song Community Learning Center (NSCLC) where approximately 177 Pre-kindergarten to 8th grade students and their families attend classes, after school programs, musical and arts performances, basketball games, workshops and other events. Though there are four schools within 2-mile radius of the Center, previously there were only two available sports spaces.  

“This project is centred around community pride. Showing our community that there are people and organizations that care about their well-being and allowing them to be a part of a project that betters their own community,” said Jayson Green, CEO of NSCLC.

During the project's "Build Day," over 55 community volunteers donated over 200 hours of their time to clean the trash and broken glass off of the blacktop, pull weeds from the cracked surface and install a new acrylic court for mixed sport use. The court is mainly currently geared towards basketball, but there are plans to install soccer nets in the future. 

Starting early next year RISE will run an 8-10 week "Train the Trainers" sports-based course for adults to support their work with the young people. The trainings will address social challenges such as health education and violence prevention, both of which are prevalent in Sandtown as with many inner cities across the country. “People see this simply as a court but it is more than a space; it is where friendships grow and it keeps you away from negative things,” said local resident Jeremiah Stevenson. Seven varied local groups are already confirmed to participate. 

The Return to Play Fund is supported by Founding Partners Beyond Sport and ESPN, Funding Partners The Pincus Family Foundation and TeamSnap and Media Sponsor SiriusXM. Visit our website for more information on the Fund’s capacity building, infrastructure and advocacy pillars, as well as for free digital resources for parents/guardians, coaches and youth.  


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