Town looks to bring back financial aid for youth sports

Town looks to bring back financial aid for youth sports

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A plan now under consideration by town officials would establish a fund to help families who want to have their children participate in local youth sports but can’t afford it.

Town Councilor Ken Amoriggi brought up the idea at the Jan. 7 Town Council meeting, saying he’s learned from talking to various parties over the past six months that youth sports overall are down in enrollment, and the most-cited reason for the lack of sign-ups is that it costs too much money. Rather than the decline being a sign of less interest, he said, it’s a “commentary on the economic realities” many families are facing.

Amoriggi noted that the town used to give grants to some sports leagues, and he suggested that officials consider reinstating those grants and potentially establish a new grant program to help cover the cost of sports for those who can’t afford to participate.

Amoriggi said he doesn’t want the cost of this to be placed on taxpayers’ backs, and he’s spoken with grant writer Lisa Andoscia who informed him that there are some resources available for such initiatives.

The councilman, who is head of the Marieville Neighborhood Partnership, said that group is also looking into the possibility of starting its own grant for the same purpose.

The council last week referred the research on the feasibility of a grant program to its finance committee and sent a letter to Andoscia asking for information on available grants.

Councilor Ron Baccala asked if grants would be disbursed to each league to then distribute as leaders see fit, and Amoriggi said that was the practice in the past. He said league presidents will be invited to the finance meeting to give their input.

Councilor Mario Martone, who noted that he grew up playing sports, said he thought Amoriggi’s proposal was a great idea. Youth sports participation is a wonderful thing, he said, “and money should not be a barrier for them.”

Councilor Manny Giusti said the town did away with a previous grant program during the financial crisis of a decade ago.

Baccala said that as a youth sports coach in town, he knows that some families could really use the help. Amoriggi said he expects this to be a needs-based program relying on coaches and youth league leaders.

“Nice work,” said Council President Dino Autiello of Amoriggi’s tentative plan.

Ruth Bucci, a former council candidate and chairwoman of the Historic District Commission, urged the council to make sure this grant considers female athletes in addition to males, and that females are treated equally. Councilors assured her this is for all sports and everyone will receive equal subsidies.

Amoriggi said this week that he doesn’t have the latest numbers on downward trends in local youth sports. The Breeze reported last summer on a slight increase in enrollment for the North Providence Youth Soccer recreation programs, but continued struggles for NPYS’s competitive programs.

Amoriggi said this issue was originally brought to his attention over the summer by a parent in the Marieville group. After speaking with her, he reached out to coaches of various youth leagues who confirmed that some of the children who want to join up can’t because their parents can’t afford it.

“The plan next is to hold a finance committee meeting and invite representatives from all the leagues to attend to give us their input as to how severe the problem is and to make recommendations as to how best assist those in need,” he said.