It started with an abundance of sports equipment. During the pandemic last year, with so much extra time on hand, households began to inventory and organize garages, basements and attics to clear up space and restructure. As they unearthed stored items, what could they do with the excess sporting equipment that was no longer needed?
They called Harford County (Md.) Area Director Tommy Schumacher to see if he had need for the extra shoes and equipment. Schumacher and the Baltimore area FCA partner with Leveling the Playing Field (LPF) in Baltimore, which collects new and gently used sports and playground equipment and distributes to schools and organizations that help provide materials to under-resourced youth groups and schools. Utilizing this partnership, and the outside inquiries of needed sports equipment, FCA KickStart was born.
“We want to help kickstart a young athlete’s career,” said Schumacher.
FCA KickStart wants to level the playing field by providing gently used cleats, shoes, gloves, bats, balls and other equipment to give every athlete the opportunity to play. This mission provides the community opportunities to connect and rally around these needs and make a positive impact in the athletic and spiritual life of an athlete where needed.
One sport that greatly benefited was lacrosse. Leveling the Playing Field had 2,000 unstrung lacrosse heads. Stringing lacrosse heads take time and is expensive, so it became a challenge to find the manpower and bandwidth. But Maryland FCA stepped in to help them get strung and sent back to LPF through relationships nurtured in the lacrosse community. Schumacher and Central Maryland Multi-Area Director Brandon Johnson called on their network to help.
“A friend of mine said his company, East Coast Dyes, would donate stringing kits, and we bundled the kits and heads together, then connected with coaches and distributed them,” said Johnson.
Many local high school lacrosse athletes volunteered their time to take a kit or two and this became a great service project for community coaches and athletes. Schumacher and his team gave t-shirts and The FOUR bracelets to volunteers and marveled at the receptivity and involvement of the lacrosse community.
According to Johnson, they’d receive a batch of 750 lacrosse heads and stringing kits, and within 24 hours all of them were accounted for.
From one act of giving, numerous doors have opened for staff in Maryland to make connections with coaches, athletic directors, and athletic programs that weren’t there before.
“I’m texting coaches I never have connected with before. We had kids come to the FCA office to pack, and they never would have stepped foot in there before. I’m talking about opportunities for players and coaches to get involved and engage in E3 training—through a pandemic!” said Johnson.
It’s not just lacrosse equipment. Schumacher received a request from an athletic director he previously had little interaction with, asking if he could find two catcher’s mitts for athletes trying out for the local baseball teams.
He found two mitts and showed up to practice, where the coach pulled over both the varsity and junior varsity teams for the presentation.
“The coach asked if I wanted to speak, so I told them baseball is something you do not who you are,” Schumacher said. From that event, players showed up the next weekend to help with a special needs game, and FCA is starting back up at the school.
“God keeps affirming this is being used for His purpose,” said Schumacher.
And it’s not just local. Baltimore FCA partners with the Southeast Asia Global Region and have been asking its leaders about their needs and are planning an equipment drive in the fall to supply the requests.
The ripple effect continues today. The team has been busy collecting more equipment through a donation drive in early May, and thanks to a few generous donors, they now have a 54 ft. semi-truck trailer wrapped with the FCA logo for great exposure as it travels highways.
“Athletes keep coming, stories keep popping up—we’re presenting the Gospel by serving as the hands and feet of Christ,” Johnson said. “We’re one step closer to reaching every coach and athlete.”
God continues to do great things through FCA in the Baltimore area to reach coaches and athletes with the Gospel. Please prayerfully consider supporting FCA KickStart.
To learn more about Schumacher’s and Johnson’s ministries and ways to get involved, visit Harford FCA and Central MD FCA.
Photos courtesy of Tommy Schumacher