For the past few years, Eric and Tarah Byrnes had been funding small, specific needs for local youth activity organizations. As a family that deeply valued sport, activity and community, it was a natural fit. The first one was for $450 to their little league, at risk for losing the junior umpire program because they couldn’t afford the proper safety equipment. Eric and Tarah stumbled upon this need, quickly fulfilled it, and began to understand that there are certainly other organizations out there, run by volunteers, serving our children, that have these small gaps, and that if people knew about them, they would want to fix it.
This began a quest for the Byrnes family. The more digging they did, the more profound the need became. Massive amounts of research confirmed the positive correlation between regular physical activity and improved academic performance and better social and emotional environments. Despite all of this...
Many of these schools, particularly in urban environments, don’t host outdoor recess. 67% of children don’t participate in after school sports, many for a lack of resources.
This had to change. Calling on their network of professionals, mentors and friends, and standing on the shoulders of giants, the Byrnes family created the Let Them Play Foundation.
In their inaugural year, they distributed over 30 grants ranging in value from $500 to $5,000, to local and national organizations that empower play: Baseball, Running, Cross-Fit, Squash, Dance, Tennis, Swimming, Basketball, Lacrosse, Soccer and more... Groups like Girls on the Run, PACE (Police Athletic and Community Engagement) in Omaha, Playworks nationwide, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Philly Stars... all offering not only sport, but a place to belong and grow, to empower and strengthen.
The majority of the grants were hand delivered by the Byrnes family as they road-tripped across the country. Because they felt it was important to “show, not just tell,” Eric swam from San Francisco to Oakland, biked from Oakland to Chicago, and ran from Chicago to New York City. They hosted 15 events over the 57-day period at different minor and major league ballparks, culminating at the steps of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, escorted by NYPD and greeted by hundreds of kids and coaches from New York City and beyond.
The Byrnes’ have been awed by the tremendous groups that use play and sport as a way to equip children, many from at risk and under-served communities. Grants are distributed to applicants that demonstrate a commitment to the Let Them Play Mission of providing children with opportunity and means to be physically active.
The LTP grants fund equipment, scholarships, even bus passes for transportation, lightening the load for these organizations, and allowing them to spend more time on their mission rather than raising funds.
In this day and age of massive corporate and personal gifts, it is easy to feel like there isn’t a place for giving that doesn’t include 7 zeros. Where is the impact? How can it matter? It does. Let Them Play Foundation is focused on bridging the gap between small gifts and a big difference.
By collecting and distributing the heartfelt donations of all sizes, LTP services the groups that are on the front lines of the fight to keep our children active.