Soccer is Stone Powers life.
And that’s part of the reason the 10-year-old asked for donations to the local organization BounceBack rather than get gifts for his most recent birthday. He wanted to help kids whose parents might not be able to afford to pay for their sports — especially soccer.
“He said, ‘I have enough stuff, I don’t need anything,’” his mom, Lisa Powers, said.
Stone knows how lucky he is. He plays for the club team The Galaxy. He’s been to Italy to try out for a team that would groom him for the professional ranks. He also knows he’s never been told he can’t play soccer.
“There are kids around the world who don’t have enough money for sports,” Stone said.
Lisa and her husband offered to match what Stone raised, thinking he might get a few hundred dollars if he was lucky. The didn’t anticipate it would be more than $700. Coupled with selling raffle tickets and his parents’ donation, the fifth-grader contributed more than $2,000 to BounceBack to pay for other kids to keep playing.
BounceBack director and founder Sara Reifsteck is a neighbor of the Powers family in south Naperville. She started the organization after listening to parents on the sidelines of games discuss the difficulty of paying fees for their children to participate in sports.
Often people don’t realize the expense that goes into sports, especially when multiple children are involved. Soccer club fees can be broken down monthly, but sometimes cost a family with three children who play $1,000 a month.
BounceBack funds sports expenses, such as registration fees and equipment, for families who can’t afford them. BounceBack has helped families with needs from $60 to $1,000.
“Children gain so much from sports,” Reifsteck said. “It’s not just about winning or losing. What did my child learn from your child? What did my child learn from the coach?”
And no one should be exempt.
“It doesn’t matter what income level kids come from,” Lisa Powers said. “Kids should play.”
Other people argue that sports are an unnecessary expense, one that isn’t important, but for Teri Thurman who has three boys, getting help on the monthly soccer club fees has made a difference for her family.
The Plainfield resident grew up swimming, and it eventually paid for her college education. The lifelong lessons far outweigh the expense in the long run.
“My most special memories are of playing sports, not of school or birthday parties,” Thurman said.
“Even if they quit (when they get to high school), they will be in the best shape of their lives, and they will have learned teamwork and values.”
And for other families, financial situations have changed, and parents don’t want to tell their children they can’t play their sport anymore.
Reifsteck has strict standards for the application process to assure that no one takes advantage of the funds she and others are working hard to raise. While they have helped children in Naperville, the organization also has branched out to inner city Chicago.
“I have been so humbled by these families, assisting them,” Reifsteck said, but she adds about the process, “there is no gray area.”
Parents must fill out a lengthy application form and include references and the child’s report card. The process holds parents accountable and to assure the child will continue to play the sport for the duration of what is being supported by BounceBack.
Reifsteck also wants children to realize how hard their parents work to keep their children playing sports.
“I never had to tell any of my children ‘you can’t play that,’” Reifsteck said.