As Lindsey Haring signed her kids up for the SLO Youth Baseball league this February, all she could think about was how desperately they needed to get outside and see their friends.
After nearly a year of being holed up at home together amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Haring's children—second and fourth graders at C. L. Smith Elementary School—returned to their classrooms this month for limited in-person instruction. Haring said she could see the difference in her second grader almost immediately. Virtual learning isn't easy for younger kids, she said, and his whole attitude brightened after just a few days of in-person class.
She couldn't wait to see how they'd both react to getting back out on the baseball diamond.
- File Photo By Jayson Mellom
- GET OUT As youth sports open up, The Mountain Air is hosting a fundraiser for Promoting Extracurricular Activities for Kids (PEAK), a local organization that helps families in need access extracurricular activities through scholarships and registration support.
But then she thought about all the kids whose families can't afford club sports or the equipment necessary to participate. Much of the gear that was once shareable—bats, helmets, mitts—won't be shared this season under COVID-19 safety restrictions. It'll likely be more expensive than usual to participate, Haring said, and at a time when so many families are struggling financially and so many kids are in dire need of physical and social activities.
"It's a reminder that everybody in the community doesn't come to the table with the same opportunities and the same access," she told New Times.
So Haring and her husband, who own The Mountain Air, an outdoor sports store in downtown SLO, decided to launch a fundraiser for Promoting Extracurricular Activities for Kids (PEAK), a local organization that helps families in need access extracurricular activities through scholarships, outreach, and registration and language support.
Dubbed "Peaks for PEAK," Haring's fundraiser kicked off on March 1 and will continue through the end of the month. The premise is simple: If you go on a hike, you can submit your name and the trail you hiked at The Mountain Air's website (themountainair.com). The Mountain Air will donate $20 to PEAK for every submission it receives. No photo evidence is required and you don't have to post about it on social media. Haring said the goal is simply to inspire everyone in the community to get outside and get active while raising as much as possible for PEAK scholarships.
"We just want to make sure that anyone who wants to play gets to play," Haring said.
PEAK was founded around 2011, when Susan Westwood's youngest son was a kindergartener at Pacheco Elementary School. Westwood's close friend and an employee at Pacheco, Louise Kraemer, had noticed that a lot of Pacheco students weren't participating in music or dance classes or club sports either because their parents couldn't afford it or couldn't speak enough English to fill out the necessary paperwork.
At first Westwood and Kraemer wanted to start a nonprofit geared toward eliminating cost and language barriers to accessing extracurricular activities. That process seemed a little overwhelming, so Westwood said they launched PEAK as an arm of Pacheco's Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
Now, thanks to donations and fundraising efforts, PEAK gives out about 100 scholarships of up to $200 to Pacheco families each year. About 80 percent of those go toward club soccer sign-ups, Westwood said, but they also go to swim lessons, gymnastics, and music, art, and dance classes. PEAK hosts registration support events, where bilingual volunteers help parents with paperwork.
"Every single dime goes to these kids," Westwood said.
Although PEAK started at Pacheco, its mission is spreading to other schools like C.L. Smith and Hawthorne Elementary. Parent Celia Uribe launched a sister PEAK organization at C.L. Smith in 2019 and had plans to push out some scholarships in 2020 when COVID-19 hit and stopped the program in its tracks. Now with COVID-19 infection rates waning and youth sports starting back up, Uribe said she's expecting a flood of kids wanting to get out and families in need.
"Especially after this year where children have been at home," Uribe told New Times. "I think it's more important than ever right now."
• A new mural by local artist Abbey Onikoyi was unveiled at 40 Prado Homeless Services Center on March 2. With supplies donated by Miner's Ace Hardware, Staples, and United Rentals, Megan Souza of Megan's Organic Market commissioned the project and gifted it to 40 Prado as a way to give back to the community.
• Cal Poly Extended Education entered into a partnership with two statewide programs to deliver cybersecurity and cloud skills training from Amazon Web Services to the current and future workforce of California. Through the initiative, Cal Poly's California Cybersecurity Institute will provide training to public sector organizations, small- to medium-sized businesses, larger corporations, and individuals. Δ
Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to firstname.lastname@example.org.