A new nonprofit founded and run by area high-school students allows participants to break a sweat and flex their competitive muscles while raising much-needed dollars for their favorite charity.
Launched in January by Shaker Heights High School senior Andrew Roth, Champions for Charity
has thus far raised $21,000 through soccer tournaments and other sporting events. Athletes compete directly for their personally selected cause, forging a rare and precious link to those in need.
"Representing the charity of their choice allows teams to feel a personal connection," says Roth, 18. "Our focus is to empower kids to make a difference."
Squads pay an entrance fee for the March Madness-like competitions, collecting money from losing teams as they move ahead in the bracket. In August, Champions for Charity raised $18,000 through a three-on-three soccer event created in honor of Kevin Ekeberg, a Shaker Heights alumnus who died of stomach cancer in 2015. All donations went to the No Stomach for Cancer
Meanwhile, 30 two-person teams gathered this summer for spikeball
, a combination of four square and volleyball using a hula-hoop sized net placed at ankle level. The tournament raised $700, with the winners donating prize money to the Surfrider Foundation
, an environmental group dedicated to protection of the world's beaches.
"We've had success because students realize now it's not difficult to donate to a charity," says Roth. "We're making it fun and accessible to people who normally don't do this in their spare time."
Roth heads Champions for Charity with help from two friends, Wyatt Eisen and Liam Prendergast, and five other SHHS students. The organization founder is also working with an economics teacher and a community member with a nonprofit background.
Roth's sports-centric nonprofit was spawned from an unrelated charity soccer event he organized. The experience inspired him to incorporate future athletic happenings under an umbrella of competition, but with an expanded fundraising focus.
"It's cool to represent something you're passionate about," Roth says. "I'm motivated to motivate other people."
The young spearhead of the inventive nonprofit graduates next year, but that won't stop Champions for Charity from continuing its mission, thanks to three juniors and two sophomores Roth recently brought on to continue the operation.
"My generation of teenagers can make changes to the world," says Roth. "If we're not developing that drive to change now, then we may never do it."