When Gianna Latorre and her friend, Sarah Delaney, embarked on the journey to earn their Girl Scout Silver Awards, the Chatham Middle School 8th graders each did about 50 hours of community service and chose to have their final project help less fortunate kids live a more active and healthy lifestyle and experience the joy of sports. The girls partnered with the Madison Area YMCA to set up collection bins for new and gently used sports equipment and Let’s Play It Forward, a not-for-profit organization in Westchester, NY, that donates used and new sports equipment to children in need.

At the Madison Area YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day where the girls had a table to spread awareness about the collection, they spoke about having the ability to play sports because their families could afford to pay for the equipment.

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“We’re fortunate. Not every family has the money to buy sports equipment,” says 14-year-old Sarah, pointing out that having the ability to play sports gives kids a chance to stay healthy.

“Every kid should be able to experience playing a sport, especially in a team atmosphere,” says Gianna, 14, who has been a Madison Area YMCA Mariners swim team member for five seasons. She credits her self-confidence and positivity to being a Mariner. “I came out of my shell,” she says. “I learned goal-setting, how to reach them, and what’s reasonable and unreasonable. I learned to stay positive when things got harder and that hard work pays off.”

During the drive, the bins were overflowing with footballs, basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, tennis rackets, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and golf clubs. The girls emptied the bins several times and stored the donations in their families’ garages until it was time to deliver the equipment to Play It Forward.

“We’re thrilled that these teens chose to partner with the Madison Area YMCA for their community service project,” says Madison Area YMCA Youth and Teen Development Director Allison Bardon, whose department is launching a Teen Advisory Council in the fall. “It’s an exciting time at our Y for teens. There are lots of great opportunities to get involved, do community service, be social, develop leadership skills and realize the importance of social responsibility.” Teens interested in joining the Teen Advisory Council should email abardon@madisonymca.org for an application.

“I’m happy that my old equipment is getting another life on the field,” says Sarah, a field hockey player and cross country runner who also played softball for eight years. “At Chatham’s softball opening day this year, we received lots of donations. It was surprising how many people had sports equipment lying around that they didn’t use anymore. People thought it was a great idea to donate.”

Gianna points out that she and Sarah also learned things during the project, like the value of communication. “We handed out flyers, sent emails, used Facebook and talked about it to people—and we got a great response. It makes me feel happy that we are helping kids who are not as fortunate. They will be able to try lots of different sports and stay healthy by exercising.”

Sarah and Gianna will receive their Silver Awards in September.