What's this Youth Sports Foundation Doing, Particularly for Special Needs Kids?

You might only think of Finish Line when you need a new pair of running shoes, but this athletic brand is also doing some big things for kids with special needs. The Finish Line Youth Foundation was established in 1988 as the philanthropic outlet for the company. The goal of this foundation is to make a difference in the lives of children and youth in the communities it serves, and it built up its giving presence and grantmaking capacity in recent years.

In the most recent grant cycle, the Indianapolis-based funder awarded $180,805 to 22 organizations in 14 states. This round of giving topped the Q2 total of $77,000 announced last August. All of these grants went toward programs for healthy lifestyles, youth development, and youth with special needs. This is a funder that supports nonprofits that provide access to sports for kids in the community and camps for kids who are disadvantaged and disabled.

The bulk of recent grants have gone to healthy lifestyle programs, with just a few legacy grants and grants for camps in the mix. Healthy lifestyle grants have recently been awarded in the states of North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Massachusetts. Examples of programs that Finish Line supports include free sports programs and fitness clinics for inner-city, at risk kids.

But one thing that stood out to us was Finish Line’s commitment to youth with special needs. For example, the funder awarded $5,000 to The Allegro Foundation to support weekly movement education classes for 160 kids with disabilities. It also gave $5,000 to the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association to support sports activities for youth both with and without disabilities. Another $4,200 grant went to the Maine-Niles Association of Special Recreation to support a sports program for children between ages three and seven who have intellectual disabilities. Several grants also went towards recreation programs for kids diagnosed with cancer.  

Program grants are awarded up to $5,000 and are the most common grants from the Finish Line Foundation. Meanwhile, legacy grants go toward new facility improvements and renovations and are typically between $10,000 and $75,000 in size. The other more rare type of funding that Finish Line provides is the founder’s grant, which is reserved for emergency needs and natural disasters. These grants are typically between $5,000 and $25,000.

Right now, we’re in the middle of the first of four grant application periods for 2016. This period closes on March 31, for which applications will be reviewed in April and May and grants awarded by June 1. Grant applications are accepted electronically, and paper applications received by mail will not be considered. Check out the foundation’s Grant Guidelines page to plan for upcoming dates and take an eligibility quiz. As a general rule, programs should operate near Finish Line stores (within 25-100 miles of one).  

General questions can be directed to the four-person staff at youthfoundatoin@finishline.com. The foundation is led by President Marty Posch and staffed by Foundation Administrator Michael Lockard, Community Engagement Specialist Kara Fick, and Development Coordinator Sara McInerney. Also on the administrative side, the foundation recently brought three new representatives onto the foundation’s board effective January 1, 2016.