SUBMITTED — Today, The Community Foundation of South Alabama (CFSA) is announcing its partnership with the Aspen Institute and the Jake Peavy Foundation on “Project Play”, a once-in-a generation opportunity to reimagine sports in America with health and inclusion as core values, to introduce “State of Play: Mobile County” to South Alabama. State of Play will unite the Aspen Institute and local community leaders in Mobile to work together to conduct a scan and analysis of the landscape of youth sports in Mobile County. Low income children are being left on the sidelines and so are the opportunities to allow these children to play and become productive members of society.

Project Play and the State of Play: Mobile County aims to level the playing field for kids. It has the ability to reenergize South Alabama communities to be active and allow every child the opportunity to play. Project Play was launched in 2013 by the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, and the initiative convenes the nation’s top thought leaders from the realms of sports, medicine, media, business innovation, government and philanthropy to develop strategies that build healthy, thriving communities for all.

Jake Peavy and Rebecca Byrne

Today in Washington, D.C., CFSA along with the Jake Peavy Foundation are participating in the 2017 Project Play Summit which brings together over 350 leaders from sectors that touch the lives of children to take measure of the nation’s state of play and chart next steps in building healthy communities through sport. The day will feature a series of thought-provoking panels, major announcements, and featured conversations with prominent athletes, grassroots innovators, and sport leaders, including Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, WNBA player Chiney Ogwumike, NBC Sports announcers Dan Hicks and Rebecca Lowe, Hockey Hall of Fame member Angela Ruggiero, and former MLB players Harold Reynolds and Rick Ankiel.

“We are so excited to partner with The Community Foundation of South Alabama and the Aspen Institute to bring this incredible assessment of youth sports to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama” said Jake Peavy. “The value of sports goes beyond the field and we’re committed to providing these young kids with the necessary access so they can thrive and be successful in life.”

CFSA launched the Closing the Opportunity Gap initiative in October 2016. The goal of the initiative is aimed at narrowing the opportunity gap for financially fragile children in the Foundation’s eight-county service area in Southwest Alabama. In Mobile County, the child poverty rate is a staggering 28 percent. One particular area of focus for CFSA’s Closing the Opportunity Gap is increasing youth access to extracurricular activities.

Data also shows that children who have access to extracurricular activities tend to be wealthier with more access to opportunities that help them grow into productive members of communities and families. Yet, in Alabama- on average, more than 1 in 5 high schoolers did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity even once per week.

“Far too many children from low-income areas, like many of the neighborhoods all over Southwest Alabama, have less access to everything including quality early childhood education, enrichment and extracurricular activities that give them the emotional, social and educational skills and opportunities necessary to succeed later in life,” said Rebecca Byrne, President & CEO of The Community Foundation of South Alabama. “That is why this partnership between The Community Foundation of South Alabama, the Aspen Institute and the Jake Peavy Foundation to close the opportunity gap and allow all children to have access to extracurricular activities is so exciting and so promising.”

For more information on Closing the Opportunity Gap and the State of Play: Mobile County, contact Jena Berson, Director of Community Initiatives at CFSA at: [email protected] or call 251-445-6295.