Wilson Foundation establishes $5 million fund for youth sports – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Longtime Bills owner Ralph Wilson died at the age of 95.
Video by Neeti Upadhye
Youth sports and recreation programs in the Greater Rochester Region, particularly those held together by financial band-aids and dedicated coaches and volunteers, are about to get a very big assist thanks to the generosity of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the late Buffalo Bills founder and owner.
The Wilson Legacy Fund for Youth Sports at the Rochester Area Community Foundation, established with a $5 million gift from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, was announced on Wednesday.
The fund will provide annual and ongoing support to expand and improve youth sports and recreational opportunities in the city of Rochester, Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties.
An additional gift of $250,000 was included to allow a substantial first round of grants starting this fall.
“By establishing this endowed fund at the Community Foundation, it allows us to permanently support very localized projects in the region for which a smaller grant can make all the difference,” David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation said. “In addition, while we continue to seek out opportunities to invest in broader youth sports and recreation programs, this fund will provide an opportunity to test out ideas and programs on a smaller, pilot level.”
The overarching goal is to strengthen the “quality, quantity, and accessibility of youth sports programs in the region,” administrators said.
Wilson’s foundation had previously established youth sports funds in Buffalo and the Detroit, Michigan area, Wilson’s hometown.
Prior to his passing in 2014, Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue his life-long philanthropy work. His foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period and focuses on children and youth; young adults and working class families; care-giving; and health.
A Youth Sports Task Force for the Rochester Region, comprised of more than three dozen representatives from various organizations, has been meeting since last summer.
It was convened by Hank Rubin, vice president for community programs at the Community Foundation, to provide input on priorities and needs related to youth sports, including participation by low-income youth.
“Many youth sports programs in our region are held together heroically on a shoestring budget and this new fund can help provide stability and enhance what is being offered,” Rubin said. “This all-local task force has been instrumental in helping us to better understand the youth sports and play landscape and establish a common understanding of what constitutes quality.”
Task force members provided input to the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program based in Washington, D.C. Aspen will release a study on the state of area youth sports and recreation this summer which will help the Community Foundation’s grant-making decisions.
Sports and recreation programs within local school districts, formal sports teams outside of school, general recreational activities and facilities and organized community sports programs for youth up to age 18 are eligible for grant support.
“We are honored to build on Mr. Wilson’s lifelong love of sports by helping our region’s young athletes and those participating in local recreation programs enjoy quality programs in their own communities and learn from knowledgeable, well-trained coaches and adult organizers,” Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, said.
In December 2015, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Smart Strategy was created at the Community Foundation with a $500,000 gift. The first grant from that fund was used to further research and report on poverty in the nine-county Rochester area.
The Rochester Area Community Foundation manages more than 1,250 charitable funds created by individuals, families, businesses and organizations.