A Foundation Grant to Get Kids Off the Couch, and Giving Back

Although the state of Massachusetts has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, still more than half of adults and one in four high school and middle students there are overweight or obese. So anything that can get these kids moving has to be a good thing in our book.

That includes an initiative backed by a Boston-area foundation that has a passion for youth philanthropy and sports partnerships.

The Newton, Massachusetts-based Highland Street Foundation recently awarded a $25,000 grant to Positive Tracks, a youth-centric nonprofit that helps young people get active and give back using the power of sport. According to a press release, 36,000 young people will leverage 221,000 miles of athletic activity by the end of 2014 to raise over $4,000,000 for 12 charity partners, four of which are based in Massachusetts. This athletic activity includes soccer, basketball, lacrosse, 5K and Marathon races, Kick Ball tournaments, and Dance-a-thons.

The Highland Foundation primarily funds programs within the state of Massachusetts, and many of those fall within Boston city limits. The foundation recently sponsored a complete renovation of an underutilized playground on Boston Common, transforming it into an imaginative and widely used play space in the city.

Highland is supporting this effort alongside another Positive Tracks supporter, Playworks Massachusetts, an organization that improves the health and well-being of children through physical activity and safe, meaningful play. The method behind the madness involves actively engaging youth while simultaneously giving them a taste of hands-on philanthropy.

“Using the power of your own body—your feet, mind and heart—to activate change fuels ownership and genuine transformation,” said Positive Tracks Founder, Nini Meyer. “Positive Tracks’ dual-pronged mission fights obesity and promotes youth wellness, while teaching philanthropy and social entrepreneurship at an early stage.”

The Highland Street Foundation is into local youth philanthropy in a big and unique way. Established in 1989 by David J. McGrath, Jr., the founder and owner of TAD Resources International, Inc., the foundation has a Youth Philanthropy Initiative for middle, high school, and college-aged youth. Over the past three years, this initiative has trained over 400 students to donate more than $300,000 to local nonprofits. Highland’s strategic approach involves both grantmaking and philanthropic training.

In short, this funder isn’t just interested in giving money to youth organizations; it’s interested in training the youth that benefit from these organizations to become local philanthropists. To toss in a sports analogy, Highland’s strategy is a healthy lifestyle/youth engagement/philanthropy training “triple threat.”

“Through our work, we have found that youth have an inherent desire to want to give back,” said Blake Jordan, Executive Director of the Highland Street Foundation.