PACF Helps Make Athletics Accessible






By Elizabeth Wilder

Organized athletics help people of all ages develop physical and mental skills, make friends, and have fun. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, youth participation in sports improves performance in school as well as skills such as time management, planning, and understanding the connection between practice and reward. The Palo Alto Community Fund (PACF) is making sure that under-resourced neighbors have access to the benefits of athletics through several recent grants.

For thirty-five years, East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring (EPATT) has helped youth from East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto become college- and career- ready. Founded by a small group of volunteers in 1988, EPATT offers free tennis lessons to students who enroll in after-school and summer tutoring programs and, since 2022, in-school tutoring at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School. In 2023, a total of 158 students were enrolled with EPATT. Amy Kohrman, Development and Communications Director for EPATT, said, “All four of our high school seniors were accepted to at least one four-year college or university.” PACF supported EPATT with a two-year grant in the spring of 2023.

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation, formed in 2012 by four friends from a master swimmers’ organization, offers free swim lessons for children. Their motto is Save Lives. Change Lives., and their work lives up to this by teaching kids water safety skills, counteracting the reality that drowning is a leading cause of death for children in the United States. Working with pool partners in nine locations, 1,120 children from low-income families benefited from these swim lessons last year.

First-time PACF grantee Rich May Foundation (RMF) has created an athletic alternative to gangs and violence for youth in East Palo Alto by bringing together a coalition of neighbors who raised money, negotiated with the Ravenswood School District and the Catholic Diocese for space, to build a turf athletic field. Named for East Palo Alto Police Officer Rich May, who was murdered in 2007 while serving this community, the RMF field hosts more than 15,000 youth every month. Both soccer and rugby are played on the EPA’s only regulation-sized facility.

One organization collaborating with the Rich May Foundation is East Palo Alto Razorhawks Rugby, where youth aged 5-18 years learn rugby. “Our goal is to give players the academic, life skills, and rugby coaching support to be successful in the classroom, in the community, and on the field,” stated founding Board Member Shaun Paga. Paga was a member of the 1999 USA Eagles World Cup Team. The Razorhawks were a first-time PACF grantee in 2023. The Razorhawks join with EPATT to offer tutoring to their athletes before every practice.

Fit to the Core promotes physical activity, health education, and a sense of belonging. Fit to the Core founder Tracie VanHook helps under-served adults in the East Palo Alto and Belle Haven neighborhoods gain better mobility and combat chronic health conditions through accessible community wellness programs.

Your donations to the Palo Alto Community Fund make programs like these possible. Thank you for your support.


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