Tiger Point Sports Association helps host families afford youth sports
For Jennifer Wilke, being an adoptive parent is a calling – her way of spreading what good she can in the world.
“Call it a mission or whatever,” she said.
The Santa Rosa County resident is currently a mother of two biological children and an adoptive mother of four others.
“I don’t think people realize that being a foster parent is a financial hardship. When we do something with one child, we have to do it for three or four or five or six children or whatever,” she said. “If you can’t afford after-school or extracurricular activities within the budget, then you just don’t do them.”
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This spring, however, Wilke’s children can all join organized sports teams thanks to scholarships provided by a new partnership between Gulf Coast Foster Bridge and the Tiger Point Sports Association.
The two organizations launched a joint fundraising venture in December to ensure foster children in Santa Rosa County can experience what it’s like to be on a sports team.
In recent weeks, organizations have expanded their scholarship opportunities to include not only foster children, but also children from low-income households.
“We have a huge number of kids in our area, kids in foster care and kids not in foster care, who can’t afford to play sports right now,” said Chrissy Venable, Vice President of Tiger Point Sports Association.
“For kids in low-income and foster families, we just think sports can play such an important role in their lives,” Venable continued. “You have a strong model, and it’s good for them to work with a team, so we really wanted to help them find a way to help them afford it.”
There are about 100 foster children living with 30 to 40 foster families in Santa Rosa County, according to Becky Slaymaker, executive director of Gulf Coast Foster Bridge and Tiger Point Sports Association board member.
“I don’t have the exact number of foster families, but I know there aren’t enough,” Slaymaker said. “I know many foster families have their own children and four to six other children in the home at any one time.”
Foster parents receive a monthly allowance from the state of $13 to $15 per day per adoptive child.
“But that averages out to about $400 to $450 a month that families get from the state,” Slaymaker said. “Well, that’s supposed to cover everything. Well, uh, haha, good luck with that.”
Tiger Point offers baseball, T-ball, softball, flag football and soccer teams for members’ children. There is a $45 annual registration fee to become a member and it costs over $100 for a child to join a team.
“But then you have cleats or baseball bats or soccer balls or uniforms, all of those things,” Slaymaker said. “It adds up very, very quickly.”
The new scholarships will cover all costs for host families and low-income families who apply.
“We cover registration fees, all athletic fees, and we cover their uniforms and equipment. Some donors have already come forward, but we want it to continue. So, of course, we’re going to need donations.”
Anyone wishing to apply for a scholarship or wish to donate to the scholarship fund can do so by visiting the Tiger Point Sports Association website at tpsports.net.
As of this week, eight foster families, each with two to six children, are already participating in the new bursary program. A total of 60 families – 20 foster families and 40 low-income families – have registered to receive scholarships, according to Tiger Point Sports Association board member Phillip Godwin.
“The goal of the program is that we believe foster children deserve the opportunity to participate in youth sports like any other child,” Godwin said. “I still remember hitting my first home run and throwing my first pitch in a baseball game.
“I made lifelong memories. I made friends. I learned to respect authority figures with coaches, and that had such a big impact on my life. I believe those kids could benefit greatly – the structure, the stability.”
Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8680.