The U.S. Olympic Committee and its national governing bodies of individual sports have announced they will give $250,000 over two years to city youth and recreation programs.
"In times like this it's important for us to make sure we are investing in our future and not just spending," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said at a public announcement.
Mayor Lionel Rivera was quick to emphasize that the gift represented the positive link between the USOC, the NGBs and the city, calling it a "renewal of the partnership we've had."
The city gave the USOC and NGB about $31 million to build new facilities, a deal that caused consternation in a community facing brown parks, lost bus routes, and public safety cuts due to city budget shortfalls.
The new funding will not reduce the city's 2010 funding of community centers and programs, which was recently restored, though it could offset some city funding in 2011.
Programs that will be funded for kids include: basketball, boxing, learn-to-swim, paralympic sports, summer camps, in-line hockey and judo.
Dan Schwieder, the city's paralympic sport club director, says the grant will make a huge difference for kids with disabilities.
"Most of these kids are used to sitting on the sidelines," he says, adding that the grant will allow the kids to play sports "like any other kid."
A bubbly Joan Clemons, program coordinator for Hillside Community Center, said, "This is just going to allow us to do so much more for the community."
But the centers and youth programs still have plenty to worry about. They apparently need to raise over $1 million by 2011 if they're to keep their heads above water, because City Council has said they will cease funding due to budget pressures.
Hillside program planner Jackie Tafoya was well aware of the challenge.
"It's a start," she said of the grant, "and we're going to continue to keep fighting to keep the centers open for our kids."
If you want to help, Deerfield Hills Community Center Program Director Jody Derington has a tip for you: Go to www.refresheverything.com (home of the Pepsi Refresh Project) and vote for centers. Many nonprofits are vying for grants at the site and the top vote-getters win. Deerfield Hills Spray Ground is trying for a $25,000 grant, and the centers' summer camps are competing in the $50,000 contest.
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