From the Bench: Community Members Step up Again to Help Kids with Bridgeport Youth Sports Locker

By Jeff Toquinto on September 17, 2023 from Sports Blog via

As a long-time educator who is currently a second-grade teacher at Simpson Elementary, Samantha Broadwater has seen in Bridgeport and beyond what it is like when a child’s family does not have the means to get items needed to participate in sports. And a mother of a seven-year-old, she decided to do something about it.
What she is doing is already proving to be a game changer and could end up growing larger than even she and those that came in on the ground level with her anticipated.
“I have a little boy who is 7 and he started football last year and this past year he started baseball. I saw how much everything costs, and realized there was a need for everyone to have the same playing field in sports with access to what is needed,” said Broadwater. “I realized if this is so much money for just one child, if you have multiple children, you might not have the ability to get them that glove, helmet, and bat they need. People tend to believe there aren’t needy children and families in Bridgeport, but I see it. So that is where the idea came from.”
The idea is the newly created Bridgeport Youth Sports Locker. And the concept is a simple, beautiful, and powerful one.
Broadwater’s concept was to create drop off points throughout the community of gently used or new athletic equipment, including clothing, that could be acquired discreetly by any family member that needs it. Broadwater added that kids in youth sports often grow so quickly that new items are needed for every season, further enhancing the need.
Because of the constant needs, Broadwater and those involved want to make sure while they hope to hit those in need, this is not a charity. In fact, it is for all families because the needs are constant and changing and this is meant to help buffer costs for all.
As for its beginning, Radine Gum, who is the social media figure behind the scenes, said the programs started shortly after the most recent Bridgeport Little League season concluded – likely in June. Already, even without a permanent place for individuals to get items, donations are pouring in.
“When we sat down to talk about this, I thought it was an amazing idea. All involved knew our community is amazing when it comes to helping our youth and, already, there has been so much support with donations, organizing those donations, and making sure they’re properly stored that is heartwarming,” said Gum. “Along with the donations, you’re seeing people donate money for items you can’t donate like mouthguards or sports bras.”
While the concept was hatched in June, it was not put into place until August. At that time, those involved put out collection bins at the Market on Main Street, the Bridgeport Public Library, and both Johson and Simpson Elementary Schools.
“Even though we’re collecting items, right now we don’t have an official place, but that’s going to change,” said Broadwater. “Aaron Horne, who has just been so helpful, found a space that we can utilize, and he’s helping bring that space to fruition.”
The space that will be utilized is one that is likely very familiar to many in the community. It is the old press box and storage facility behind the home bleachers at Wayne Jamison Field. The building, however, needs some upgrades.
“We’re going to paint it and put flooring down and put our items in there when everything is done,” said Gum. “We do need volunteers and we’ve had several mothers who have reached out to Samantha to help.”
One of those who had stepped up will be doing the bulk of the painting.
“There are a lot of hands involved and we already have Sarah Powers who is donating the paint and will be painting,” said Broadwater. “I know there are a lot more so even if you’re not mentioned, you’re appreciated. We’re going to need copious amounts of parents to volunteer not just with the building we’ll eventually use, but to sort and label all of the items we’ve received. We truly want this to be, and know it will be, a community effort.”
Early in the process, Broadwater and others gauged if there was interest. She went before the board of directors for both Bridgeport Little League and Bridgeport Youth Football. On an almost unanimous front, Broadwater said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Something else has also been positive – the number of items donated in a little more than a month’s time.
“It’s amazing. I’ve gone to our four locations multiple times, and we have an abundance of things that are almost brand new,” said Broadwater. “We’ve also had cash donations and we think we’re going to have more items once we have our new building ready.”
That may lead one to wonder where are the items now?
“We’re using my garage right now and we sort, size and tag everything. I’m fine with that because I don’t want to see a mother or father have to be in a situation to choose between buying a baseball bat and groceries or even a situation where continually acquring items is any type of strain,” she said. “We want anyone who needs something they can’t find to take advantage of this.”
Gum, the mother of three boys and a five-year athlete on West Virginia University’s dance team, said she was able to take advantage of it recently.
“I was able to get a pair of soccer cleats for my son because he needed a size 10 and we didn’t have them. I checked and we had a pair that were in pristine condition,” said Gum. “Anyone who has a child that has outgrown a shirt, a shoe, or anything else, bring in what they’ve outgrown and exchange it for something bigger.”
Gum said some additional items include jujitsu items, limited amounts of dance items as well as cheerleading items, and limited football gear. The hope is to grow all sports items donated so it is not simply items in sports that are predominantly male.
If you have those items, it is as simple as dropping them off at the aforementioned locations. Gum added that if you contact her or Broadwater at the link below on the Messenger part of the group’s Facebook page that porch pickups can also be arranged.
When you go to the page, there is also a way to donate money. And the money could be used for more than just equipment, gear, and uniforms.
“I’ve met with (Simpson Elementary Principal) Mr. (Todd) Rubenstein and (Johnson Elementary Principal) Mrs. (Heather) Holbert about kids who may not be able to cover registration fees needed for leagues or be part of a team picture because they can’t afford it,” said Broadwater. “We’re working to make sure that money is available if needed for things of that nature and working on that. Any money we receive, we want to assure those donating that it will be put to good use.”
I have no doubt that such is the case with the few folks mentioned and how this community always does what is best for its youth. And it is how this community responds that drew Broadwater to work and live here.
“I’m not originally from here and taught in Logan, Taylor, and Marion Counties and saw need there and see the need here, and with a kid involved it made me decide to do something,” said Broadwater. “I knew we would have a good response and that’s the reason we moved here, the sense of community. We’re just getting started, and to say the least, it’s been awesome.”
For those wishing to donate money, or schedule a pickup of items, or follow the status of the group, visit their Facebook page by clicking HERE. To contact them, please use the Messenger portion of their page.
Editor's Note: Pictured, front row from left, are Rhyus Gum, Luke Nicewarner, Ace Broadwater, and Cam Nicewarner. Back row, from left, are Radine Nicole Gum and Samantha Broadwater. Bottom two pictures show some of the recent donations.

Connect Bridgeport
© 2024