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FAITHFUL FAN | Buddy Fund helps provide an even playing field

Most of us take sports equipment for granted.

Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis, founded by Jesuit Father Paul Sheridan, helps academically motivated middle and high school students rise above disadvantaged backgrounds. An ally in its mission is The Buddy Fund, which through a network of contacts provides new sports equipment to agencies such as the residential program with a strong emphasis on education.

Jan Wacker, development director of Boys Hope Girls Hope, said the fund is an important part of the budget in allowing the children to have sports equipment and recreational equipment on site. “It allows our scholars to have an even playing field in their everyday lives,” Wacker said. “It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

With The Buddy Fund’s help, the youngsters have what they need to join a sports team. You can’t play lacrosse, for example, without a stick and safety equipment.

The Buddy Fund assists students at three schools run by the archdiocese through the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation. Pete Cerone is senior director of advancement for the foundation that provides need-based tuition assistance scholarships for children to attend the private or parochial elementary school of their choice in the St. Louis area. He praised The Buddy Fund for its longtime support. It helps the schools with physical education supplies and students participating in extracurricular activities.

Because of The Buddy Fund’s connections “we are able to get two or three times the amount of athletic equipment,” Cerone said. “It allows us to put resources into other areas to serve the needs of students. It not only is impactful because these kids have these resources, but the activities teach kids valuable lessons such as sportsmanship and how to be good winners and losers.”

The Buddy Fund was formally established in 1962 by Buddy Blattner, a former Major League Baseball player and broadcaster for the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Hawks, the California Angels and the Kansas City Royals. It started after Blattner auctioned off his sports paraphernalia and memorabilia to purchase new sports equipment for area underserved youth.

Ann Lederman, executive director and the only employee of the volunteer-led Buddy Fund, said deep discounts with vendors help. The 84 youth organizations that are served include many Catholic groups, including Catholic Charities agencies such as Marygrove, as well as after-school programs, special needs camps, Special Olympics, Gene Slay’s Boys and Girls Club and more.

“Sports gives the children friendships, physical activity, keeps them healthy, helps them feel a part of something,” Lederman said.

A member of St. Alban Roe Parish in Wildwood, Lederman said her work fits with her faith. “I’ve always believed we’re here for one purpose – to make a difference in someone’s life,” she said.

George Kriegshauser, a member of the operations board of the The Buddy Fund and a St. Gerard Majella parishioner, said he’s involved because “it’s about finding ways to give vulnerable youth an opportunity to escape their harsh environment” and to help the mentors and coaches who assist them.

To contribute or for information, visit www.buddyfund.org.

Kenny retired in 2021 after nearly 40 years as a reporter at the St. Louis Review. He and his family are parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi in Oakville.

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