LIMA — A nonprofit organization based in Bowling Green is using action sports as a catalyst to teach life skills to young people, and to help them support causes within their community.
Don DiBartolomeo and Matt Bowley, co-founders of The Right Direction Youth Development Program, spoke to the Lima Rotary Club on Monday about the merits of their organization, and what it would take to bring the program to Allen County.
“We take things like scooter, skateboard, BMX, motocross, wakeboard and all sorts of other stuff to get these kids involved in our program,” DiBartolomeo said. “Besides finding kids at a young age that just want to try these action sports, we also use these things to work on life skills that kids lack nowadays, such as time management, communication and organization.”
DiBartolomeo’s vision for the program is that all youth, regardless of socio-economic background, will one day have the opportunity to become involved in sports that teach the values and skills that help them realize and achieve their life goals.
“We get the kids involved behind the scenes,” he said. “If you look at our website, most of the marketing we do is done by the kids. We also make kids that want to be a part of our program hold a certain grade point average, and if they’re lacking a C or better we give them some tutoring.”
DiBartolomeo said all aspects of The Right Direction are community based, most notably the “impact programs” that empower youth to organize a fundraiser for a cause they care about. Young people will work with their school to develop a fundraiser or some other type of community event, and The Right Direction team will help market the idea. Once the event is scheduled, a team of professionals will perform an action sports demonstration or contest.
The money that is raised at the event will be donated to whichever organization the students chose, and 30 days later they will follow up with the group to identify what impact the funding made. Once this is finished, the youth who organized the project will present it to their school.
“It becomes this ongoing project that probably ends up being more work than they’ve done all four years of high school,” DiBartolomeo said. “It gets them to come out of their shell, and it’s amazing how many kids will come back to us and tell us they want to do it again with another school.”
Since 2011, the organization has held 42 BMX, skate and scooter contests in northwest Ohio, bringing in more than 4,000 pounds of food to local food pantries. In all, participants have logged more than 8,500 hours of community service.
Other aspects of The Right Direction are its “Gear-Up” initiative, which provides underprivileged youth with action sports equipment of their choice, as well as community classes, summer camps, after-school programs, clinics and seminars. There is no cost associated with any of these programs.
The Right Direction is based in northern Ohio, but DiBartolomeo said they will travel across the state and into other parts of the country. He said these programs could “easily be replicated” in the Lima area, and that those interested in bringing it the region should reach out to him. DiBartolomeo added that the most effective way to bring The Right Direction to the Lima area is by partnering with the local parks department.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.