News release from Fort Wayne Community Schools:
Collaborative effort benefits FWCS athletic program
(September 11, 2015) – During the halftime intermission at Friday’s Wayne vs. South Side high school football game, local middle school athletes and local partners will be on the field to celebrate the recent collaborative effort between Parkview Sports Medicine, the National Football League (NFL) Foundation and Catie B. Circle of Care that provides all Fort Wayne Community School athletes with new and/or refurbished equipment and jerseys.
The initiative was first forged with Parkview Sports Medicine and the school system when a professional assessment of all middle school’s athletic equipment was completed in 2014. Russ Isaacs, a recently retired FWCS athletic director and longtime football coach, was hired as a consultant to explore reshaping and updating FWCS K-12 athletic program. Isaacs evaluated middle and high school athletic equipment and facilities and found equipment at many schools that was past its expected useful life. Equipment determined to be unsafe was immediately discarded, leaving an immediate need for replacement pieces.
Isaacs approached Parkview Sports Medicine for assistance. With a vision that goes beyond providing treatment and rehabilitation for sports injuries, Parkview Sports Medicine committed $1,000 annually for all FWCS middle schools to use for upgrading athletic equipment over the next five years.
“While Parkview Sports Medicine may be best known for treating sports related injuries, we work to prevent injuries in the first place,” said Julie Fleck, COO, Parkview Orthopedic Hospital. “We believe every Fort Wayne youth wishing to play sports should have the opportunity. Each athlete should experience everything athletic programming has to offer and that includes correct equipment that promotes safety and prevents injury.”
In early 2015, former NFL specialist and Wayne High School graduate Jason Baker learned of the initial partnership between Parkview Sports Medicine and FWCS. As a firm believer in athletics as a catalyst promoting positive youth development, Baker worked to secure additional funding sources and matching gifts through his nonprofit, Catie B. Charities. As a result, a total gift of more than $170,000 was committed to all FWCS middle schools and was expanded to include the high school athletic programs, as well. This year, six middle schools and four high schools received funding to purchase new and/or fully reconditioned equipment through local vendors. Three additional middle schools and the remaining high school will be awarded funds in 2016. Those schools without a football program have been allocated funds for their existing athletic programs.
“Athletics are an important part of the lives of many of our students,” said Debra Faye Williams-Robbins, FWCS Assistant Superintendent-Secondary. “It is critical that student athletes have the equipment they need to safely participate in sports. We appreciate Parkview, Jason Baker, the NFL and Catie B. Charities stepping up to help our students continue to play safely.”
“Providing youth throughout the district safe sporting equipment for all sports programming, not just football, should be celebrated,” said Jason Baker. “But this is not the end of the game. It is an initial step in the enhancement of FWCS K-12 athletics.”
While the equipment overhaul is a major victory, it is only one component of the ongoing collaboration. Studies have found in addition to improved physical health, sport plays a positive role in youth development, including improved academic achievement, higher self-esteem and fewer behavioral problems. But a young person’s overall experience in sport is influenced by many factors, such as the training of the coach; the support the athlete receives from the coach, volunteers, family members, and their peers. Grant money has already been used and will continue to be used to provide safety training and leadership development programs for both the coaches and athletes facilitated by Catie B. Charities. Already, at least one coach or administrator from each FWCS middle and high school participated in the NFL’s “Heads Up” training program to promote safety.
“Through these grants, we have the ability to properly provide the FWCS student athletes with the equipment and resources needed to play not only football, but any sport, safely,” Baker added. “It is my hope that this gives the district some short term budget relief and allows them ample time to develop a self-sustaining model that will allow for maximum participation in our athletic programs. There are lessons and skills learned on the field and the court and are not taught anywhere else and will continue to serve our young people and our community the rest of their lives.”
FWCS staff and administration, Jason Baker, Parkview Sports Medicine staff and members of several FWCS middle school football programs will be at Friday’s game.
About Fort Wayne Community Schools
With nearly 31,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 51 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.