National Youth Sports Program – Back in Action

Ruthie Kucharewski, PhD (center), with TPS volunteers Yvette Blanchard (l.) and Kentra Smith

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

The National Youth Sports Program is back at the University of Toledo after a year’s hiatus – the same hiatus that affected so many programs here and around the world during the COVD-19 pandemic.

From June 2 to June 22, 22 fortunate kids, ages nine to 12, were able to participate in a variety of sports activities – football, basketball, soccer, volleyball – along with recreational therapy to better understand good health and quality of life by developing cognitive, physical, mental emotional skills.

Under the guidance of Ruthie Kucharewski, PhD, CTRS, professor Recreation Therapy Program, and a host of undergraduate and graduate interns, along with a number of volunteers from the education professional ranks, kids from Old West End and Grove Patterson elementary schools were put through their paces from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the three-week period.

However, this year’s NYSP is not exactly what is has been in the past – at least from the standpoint of participants. The number of students had been as high as 399 before the federal government cut funding some years ago, but even before the pandemic, 150 students were involved. The 22 kids in this year’s program, says Kucharewski, is still a reflection of the pandemic’s impact, but, hopefully, by next year there will be a dramatic increase in enrollment – community funding permitting.

Local funding, from such disparate sources as ProMedica and the Merickel-Farley Trout Club, is keeping NYSP afloat as the federal funding has been choked off.

Because of the lingering impact of the pandemic, all of the outside activities the program provided have been curtailed – kayaking, fishing, Mud Hens games, the zoo, the library, for example. Community service projects have also been eliminated this year in the interest of keeping participants safe and healthy.

The good news for this year’s kids, says Kucharewski, is that the number of interns and volunteers has not dwindled as much as the number of youngsters.

“The kids get the best of everything,” she says of the increased attention and assistance they have received.