Sticks-2-Schools, the non-profit partner of the National Lacrosse League’s Washington Stealth, continues to grow in Washington and its success during the 2011-2012 academic year has the program set up for a bright future. In two years since coming to Washington, the program has been introduced in 20 schools and after school programs, with 12 visits in the last year alone.
Sticks-2-Schools is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation, organized under the 501(c)3 section of the tax code, that helps fight childhood obesity by motivating youth to increase their level of physical activity. While getting the kids involved and playing, the program also introduces concepts of a healthy lifestyle.
”Local school budgets are under pressure and there is not enough money to introduce new sports into the curriculum,” said Denise Watkins, Owner of the Washington Stealth and President of Sticks-2-Schools. “In order to get the kids excited about physical education, it is important to introduce new sports. Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the US for a reason; kids like it.”
The program uses a form of soft lacrosse, which minimizes costs and allows for co-ed participation, in its curriculum. Sticks-2-Schools donates lacrosse equipment, curriculum guides and support from professional lacrosse players to assist PE teachers and increase student excitement and participation. At a minimum, Sticks-2-Schools supports the PE teachers when the program is initially introduced to help them feel comfortable with the curriculum and then again the following year. Sticks-2-Schools will generally accommodate follow-up requests from schools or after-school programs as needed to help keep the program momentum going.
In 2011-2012, Sticks-2-Schools named Washington Stealth defenseman Chris McElroy the program’s coordinator; his dedication and enthusiasm leading the program to new heights. Under his direction, Sticks-2-Schools has added a nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices element to its curriculum. McElroy was assisted by Stealth teammates Rhys Duch, Chris O’Dougherty and Brett Hickey in his visits.
“Being a part of an organization like Sticks-2-Schools is an incredibly rewarding experience,” said McElroy, who has played eight seasons of professional lacrosse and is an active participant in programs such as Right to Play. “As childhood obesity numbers continue to climb, it is so important to provide kids with the opportunities and knowledge to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Being able to use the sport I love to do so makes it that much more special for me.”
McElroy brought Sticks-2-Schools to four new school districts last year, visiting elementary and middle schools in Monroe, Mukilteo, Mt. Vernon and Edmonds, and continued to visit schools in Everett. Sticks-2-Schools was also introduced in the after school programs of seven Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County branches. In all, over 4,000 students took part in Sticks-2-Schools activities.
One of the biggest successes from the past year was an after school program set up with the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County. The Edmonds Boys & Girls Club branch took part in six visits from McElroy and O’Dougherty, each one reaching out to a new group of local youth. Just weeks ago, O’Dougherty returned to perform a lacrosse clinic for numerous children who wanted to expand on the instruction they received while participating in Sticks-2-Schools.
“The Sticks-2-Schools program has really helped our kids understand the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle,” said Boys and Girls Club Athletic Director, Erin Thomas. “Having a professional athlete serve as an instructor really has an impact. The players and staff are fantastic to work with and the Boys & Girls Club will continue to grow with Sticks-2-Schools.”
The future continues to be bright for the non-profit organization in Washington. Sticks-2-Schools exceeded its projections for the 2011-2012 school year, but 80 schools currently reside on the organization’s waiting list. The goal for the upcoming academic year is to visit at least 20 schools. In order to do so, fundraising is key. It costs approximately $2,000 per school to implement the Sticks-2-Schools program into a PE curriculum. Fundraising efforts rely heavily on individual and corporate donations as well as numerous fundraisers and auctions throughout the year.
”In order to meet our goals for the coming year, it’s very important for Sticks-2-Schools to get corporate support and sponsorship,” said Watkins. “Individual donations and fundraisers will only take the program so far. We are able to offer corporations recognition through Sticks-2-Schools and Stealth events as a thank-you for their involvement. However, we would hope corporations would want to get involved because it’s the right thing for our local youth.”
To find out more about the Sticks-2-Schools program, including ways to donate, visit the organization’s website at www.sticks2schools.org.