How We Started
Founded in 2023, Change Up Sports is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit that is the charitable arm of Philadelphia Adult League Softball (PALS), a mixed-gender recreational softball league with an emphasis on community engagement and inclusion based in the Mill Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Since starting PALS in 2012, we knew that we wanted the league to be more than just about softball and what happens on the field, and sought to use the platform as a way to engage and harness the power of so many players and teams in supporting the great work that was already going on in the surrounding neighborhood and beyond. We were fortunate to find an amazing community of players who embraced this vision and who were equally committed to making a difference through softball, and this enabled us to support a wide range of projects in Philadelphia and internationally through monetary and in-kind donations (from league fees and player contributions) as well as through group volunteer efforts.
One of the persistent and widespread challenges that we saw was how so many obstacles--including the lack of access to equipment, the high cost of gear and the volume required to play, and the limited opportunities for free or affordable programming--made it extremely difficult for young people and adults to play. And, as the league continued to grow, we knew that we could do even more, especially around expanding access to softball and baseball for young people in a fun and positive way and reducing barriers to participation.
As a result, in 2019, we began a partnership with the Belize City Softball Association to support them in their efforts to engage more youth in the game. In July of 2019, a team of 19 representatives from the league traveled to Belize and facilitated a week of youth softball clinics for over 100 young people and--through team fundraising efforts and collaborations with partner organizations--donated 1,200 pounds of equipment to enable the start of softball programs at ten primary schools and the youth detention center in Belize City. We also played friendly softball games with local Belizean adult teams.
In August of 2021, after a delay because of COVID, a smaller group (due to COVID protocols) returned to Belize to facilitate USA Quickball clinics in coordination with four community sports clubs for 130 young people on the southside of Belize City in the neighborhoods of Mesopotamia, Belama, Queen Square, and Port Loyola and donated over 600 pounds of equipment.
That same month, we also partnered with the Tommie C. Howell T-Ball Program and Men of Mill Creek to offer our first ever weeklong Baseball + Softball Skills Camp at Mill Creek Recreation Center where we play in West Philadelphia. 41 young people participated in the camp which utilized the USA Quickball model to teach fundamentals in a fun, fast-paced, and inclusive way while fostering teamwork and building knowledge of the game. Every child received dinner, beverages, snacks, dessert, and a new glove, and the camp filled a significant gap in youth programming at the time as the Rec Center was closed due to being a site for COVID testing.
In November of 2021, we headed to Freetown, Sierra Leone for a planning trip to explore the possibility of partnering there and met with youth soccer club Vintage Academy Lumley and the Sierra Leone Cricket Association--both of which had expressed interest in implementing softball and baseball in-country. The following summer, a team of 19 from PALS–including three members of the leadership of the Belize City Softball Association–traveled to Freetown to work with five youth soccer clubs, including our key partner Vintage Academy Lumley as well as Vintage Academy Lakka, Amie Morie/Hereford, Prospect Foundation, and Fants Hill Station, to facilitate a four-day USA Quickball softball and baseball skills camp for 170 young people. Each child received a t-shirt, lunch and beverages each day, a backpack with school supplies, and transportation to and from the field; they also heard from community leaders at the end of each day of camp. We also hosted trainings with the adult soccer coaches and–through group fundraising efforts and equipment collections–donated 1,350 pounds of softball gear to enable them to keep playing. In addition, we collaborated with the Sierra Leone Cricket Association to host a one-evening USA Quickball training for 290 young people and provided them with equipment. In the months following our return, we have continued to provide virtual training support, and Vintage Academy has continued to host youth and adult trainings, scrimmages, and clinics.
While these initiatives took place through PALS, we knew that there was more for us to do, and that the most effective way for us to move forward was to set up a non-profit specifically dedicated to our efforts and our partnerships focused on increasing access to softball and baseball in a fun, inclusive, and equitable way and around using sports as a platform to engage young people in youth development programming. As a result, on February 1, 2023, we established and incorporated the non-profit public charity Change Up Sports to take these efforts to the next level.
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