What started as a simple video conference call between Philadelphia middle school athletes and their coach turned into a true game changer today, thanks to a surprise appearance by Tony the Tiger, Shaquille O’Neal and Candace Parker. As part of the ongoing Mission Tiger campaign to help save and improve middle school sports nationwide, this legendary trio joined the video call to deliver a donation to the athletes at Philadelphia’s Young Scholars Charter School to help them get back in the game when sports resume.
Life without sports seems strange now, but it’s a familiar feeling at Young Scholars Charter School. Three years ago, the school had no sports at all. Coaches and administrators quickly saw the benefits when they introduced sports programming for students, but with limited resources and budget uncertainties ahead, the program faces challenges. That’s why Mission Tiger stepped up to help provide critical resources to ensure the Young Scholars Charter School students can play once again when sports return.
Shaq, Candace and Tony delivered the news during a video conference between players and coaches, which prompted cheers and more than a few tears. Not only did the kids get a chance to snag some valuable tips from basketball legends for summer training at home, they learned the Mission Tiger donation will allow their school to build a brand-new sports court. The Young Scholars teams have no on-site facilities, and this new dedicated area will be a safe space for students to play and train. Mission Tiger will also provide all teams with new uniforms and equipment, plus cover the cost of facility fees to avoid canceled games or even entire seasons of league play.
“As parents and true believers in the power of sports for kids, this has been a tough time,” said Brant Wheaton, marketing director of Kellogg U.S. ready-to-eat cereal segment. “Sports are vital to teaching leadership, teamwork and confidence in kids. That’s why Mission Tiger is here to ensure that when sports return, students like those at Young Scholars Charter School will have the resources needed to keep playing like tigers.”
SPORTS PROGRAMS AT RISK
In trying times, youth sport participation can suffer. Youth sports participation dropped to 45% in 2008 and declined to 38% by 2014, according to The Aspen Institute. Mission Tiger was created to help bridge funding gaps for programs in need, and the Young Scholars Charter School is a school with a true need, and a true heart for sports.
Coach and Athletic Director Devon Buchanan launched basketball, track and field, 7-on-7 football, volleyball, cheerleading and soccer at Young Scholars three years ago. The results were immediate: Sports helped Young Scholars students develop teamwork skills, confidence and perseverance, and students who were shy and withdrawn grew into leaders.
“Thanks to Mission Tiger, we’ll be able to provide more opportunities for our students to play sports when games come back,” said Buchanan. “This donation will have a long-standing impact on the lives of our deserving students. We’re thrilled to have something the kids can look forward to while continuing the programs we’ve started to build.”
A HALL OF FAME TEAM
Legendary basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and professional basketball star Candace Parker are the latest to join Mission Tiger alongside other superstar athletes. As parents to young athletes, both Shaq and Candace know firsthand the benefits of youth sports.
“Sports are more than just something to entertain us; they open doors and teach kids invaluable lessons about teamwork and leadership,” said O’Neal. “Sports keep kids motivated, busy and safe after school. That’s why I’m proud to team up with Mission Tiger to help provide these kids access to a safe place to play when games are back.”
Since Mission Tiger launched in August 2019, the program has helped more than 340,000 kids nationwide receive better access to sports by funding middle school sports programs.
For more information, visit MissionTiger.com.