Started in 2012 by 12-year old Emily Eisner, Play It Forward combines her passion for sports with a desire to help her community all the while encouraging her peers to be active and get involved. The heart and dedication to the mission of Play It Forward led her to establish a 501(c)(3) in early 2013, which has allowed for the depth of the organization to grow.
In its initial incarnation, Play It Forward had two key parts. The first was a walk relay for Emily’s own school community. With a school population of Kindergarten through 12th grade, Play It Forward was able to highlight the importance of staying active for kids of all ages. The second part was a campaign to collect new and gently used sporting equipment for a local elementary school in an underserved community. To register for the walk relay, donations of new or gently used sporting equipment were required. The choice of collecting equipment rather than a fee based registration for Play It Forward’s first event served to encourage students to be active while helping their community, which embodies many of the key values that are core to our ongoing mission.
Since it’s original inception, Play It Forward has grown and is now working hands on with school and physical education departments to ensure that every gift of equipment directly responds to a schools specific needs. For that reason, donations and corporate sponsorships have proven to be the best way to support the organization because they allow Play It Forward the freedom to fulfill the wish lists of the schools they support.
For Emily, sports have always been a key component to who she is and how she identifies with the world around her. At the age of 5, Emily demanded to come out of her pink tights at ballet class and to slip into a much more comfortable pair of soccer cleats. On the field, Emily learned the value of teamwork as well as how to use her voice as a leader. Dedication to sports also provided Emily the opportunity to become one of the first twelve kids in Southern California to become a black belt in Krav Maga a form of Israeli martial arts. The inspiration and lessons learned through her various athletic endeavors continue to provide a springboard for growth and an opportunity to see things from others perspectives. Currently, Emily is a ninth grader at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, California. She runs both Cross Country and Track as well as being on the varsity soccer team as a freshman. She has a 4.0 GPA, is a member of the National Junior Honors Society and was on the Head of Schools list for her entire Middle School career. In addition to participating in her school community, Emily has served as a camp counselor, inspiring kids to be comfortable in their own skin and reminding them it’s okay to sometimes be a little goofy.
To support the vision of a youth led organization, Play It Forward has an incredible collective of seasoned Directors and Advisors, with a variety of professional expertise, that provide an underlying level of experience and support to ensure the organization thrives.
The Play It Forward Youth Advisory Board (ages 11-21 years of age) underscores the key value of peer-to-peer support, empowering the students to follow their passions. The Youth Advisory Board not only helps set the organization’s short and long term goals, but they are also key implementers of programmatic marketing, promotion and fundraising efforts.
Four times a year, the group meets to strategize potential fundraisers within our various communities, creates and updates ongoing plan for social media marketing and promotion as well as thinking of new ways to self-advocate in the “adult world” for ways to expand the reach of Play it Forward.
The biggest surprise for the entire Youth Advisory Board has been the incredible satisfaction that comes from supporting other kids. Because these underserved communities have limited to no access to physical education programs or the funds to purchase equipment, the impact on both the kids administering the program and those receiving support has been very inspiring to all involved.
By expanding the program to meet the needs of various communities, teach kids about being active, remind everyone that not all schools have the great athletic program and equipment that my school does, and give something to underserved elementary schools that they can definitely use.
To form a Youth Advisory Committee in your community fill out the Kids Helping Kids Volunteer Board.