by Terry Rogers
Jamie Masten grew up playing sports so he knows how sports can help young people succeed in adulthood. As a result, he wanted to do something that would help any child who wanted to play sports achieve that goal.
“I was fortunate enough to have parents who were into sports and able to support me,” Masten said. “Not only could they afford to pay fees, buy equipment and send me to sports camps, they were there in person, coaching us and cheering in the stands. My mom was a Cub Scout leader. I was able to go to camps on various college campuses as well. I realized, however, that there are a lot of kids out there whose parents simply can’t afford for them to join a sport or kids who don’t have a strong role model at home who could benefit from joining a team. I decided it was time to do something about it.”
What Masten created was the Dark Horse Foundation. The organization partners with school administrators, coaches, teachers, community leaders and youth groups to identify athletes in need. Masten has donated some of his own money to start a fund that will be used to cover anything that is related to sports, whether it is registration fees, college visits, equipment, camp admission, practice gear and more.
“There is a special relationship in sports,” Masten said. “Between the player and the coach, the player and teammates, even between players on other teams. Sports can give kids with no guidance or close family an outlet, a way to let off steam, a way to feel as if they belong. But if they can’t even afford to pay the fees necessary to join the team, the benefits are lost.”
This year, Dark Horse Foundation was able to send seven kids to basketball camps, giving some of them the opportunity to visit a college campus for the first time. Masten pointed out that sending young people to camp gets them away from their parents and forces them to be responsible.
“You get to see what it might be like to actually go to college,” Masten said. “You are responsible for getting up on time, for getting to practice and games on time. No one is there to guide you. You have to fit in meals and go to bed at a reasonable hour. For some underprivileged children, sports camps may encourage them to do what they need to do to get into college after high school graduation.”
Initially, Masten thought the foundation would assist high school students, but research has shown that the earlier children begin participating in sports, the more benefits they receive. Masten believes that students understand the power of sports as soon as they start playing and that there should be no financial barrier to them continuing to play.
The organization is still in the initial stages of marketing to get the word out about their mission. They have discussed options with Milford School District’s Athletic Director and Superintendent as well as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Milford. Their goal is to get the word to coaches and teachers in order to identify students who may be in need. They are seeking corporate sponsors and plan to hold benefit dinners, golf tournaments as well as other fundraisers in order to add to the fund.
“The best thing about this program is that in order to receive any funds, the child must be a student athlete,” Masten said. “That means they must have the grades to remain on the team which also means they have the grades necessary to go to college after high school. It isn’t just about helping a child play a sport. It is also to allow them to get the other benefits sports offers including teamwork, a coach’s guidance and other things that have shown to lead to success in adult life. The power of sports is amazing, the life lessons you learn critical. It is like you battle together each week to achieve a goal. That carries into every day life and definitely into adulthood.”
Anyone who is interested in volunteering or donating to the Dark Horse Foundation can contact Masten or visit their website at http://www.darkhorsefoundation.org.
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