Partner Spotlight: Leveling the Playing Field

by Lauren Lee, Non-Profit Explorer

When I first emailed Maitlyn Healy, the Executive Director of Leveling the Playing Field (LPF), I had no idea how incredible this organization was. I normally am moved and empowered whenever I interview founders and leaders in the local non-profits, but this one felt different.  Perhaps it was my own relationship with sports or my youth growing up in this area. Regardless, LPF is an incredible organization that I’m thrilled to share with you. Max Levitt, the founder, was the equipment manager for the Syracuse football team and noticed that after each season, everything would just be thrown away.  He then began collecting gear in his parent’s basement. Levitt began by donating to a dance studio here in Gaithersburg and was able to get this model working and funded as to move here to their warehouse location in Silver Spring with Healy at the helm.

What is Leveling the Playing Field? What is its mission? After becoming an official 501c-3 in 2011 and entering this new warehouse space in 2014, the hard work began.  The collection of donated used sports equipment started to populate this incredible warehouse space. If you can think of a sport to play, they have the stuff. Baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, golf, ALL OF IT! After touring the warehouse, I was moved as to the sheer volume of items the organization has organized and collected!

LPF applies to different grants to fund its operations.  There are some private foundation grants as well as money from Montgomery County government. Because it’s cheaper to fund then school athletic programs, Montgomery County is a good investor in LPF.  Individual donations alongside Monumental Sports and the Cafritz Foundation are also financial supporters. There is an LPF grant application form where organizations complete information about the demographic and age range of the kids in need and what exactly they’re doing with spots and what they hope to accomplish.  There is then a site-visit and then the equipment is doled out. The most common recipient (50%) are Title I schools in and around the area.

When I asked why LPF was so important Healy responded, “There is so much research around improving grades and social skills and working on a team. Every kid deserves access to sports.” Of course, there are health benefits as kids are often stuck behind a television.  Sports can help get them out and keep them out of trouble. In fact, LPF partnered with GOODProjects, a summer camp run in Wards 7 and 8 in DC. It was an area that had a large number of homicides during the summer months when kids were out and causing trouble. When the camps were implemented with donations from LPF, there were ZERO homicides. Much of this is attributed to the kids being at sports summer camps in this area and being busy and occupied.  Sports heal.

While I was at the interview, Antoinette, a lovely woman from the Cheltenham Youth Detention Center was here getting equipment for kids.  What a remarkable resource for youth in detention and rehabilitation programs. Healy seemed unfazed as the people came in and out collection sports equipment. Per usual, I asked Healy how the public reading this article can help.  Obviously, monetary donations are welcome but if you play on a sports team or have any leftover equipment that you’ve outgrown or are no longer in need of, consider a drop-off or a collection to LPF. It goes to incredible causes and organizations that serve youth sports and development.  Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 9-5 as well as in white donation bins outsider the warehouse that is available any time. If students need Student Service Learning (SSL) house, there are plenty of jobs available including an inventory of donations and sorting through items in the warehouse.

“Just the cost of sports equipment is crazy. I can’t imagine not having had the sports opportunities I had b/c my mom couldn’t afford it,” Healy exclaims at the end of the interview.  Hopefully, this little insight into LPF can encourage your donation and support as well.

Lauren Lee is a Silver Spring resident and mom to three amazing little people. Even as a Silver Spring native, Lauren is always impressed by the amazing people she meets doing amazing things here in our community and loves to write about it for Silver Spring Cares.