Falmouth mom, daughter see new life for old sports gear

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FALMOUTH — Sports equipment has a tendency to pile up over the years. Tennis rackets and basketballs occupy space in the garage, and running shoes and cleats get relegated to closets.

A new organization wants to take that equipment and put it in the hands of people who need it.

Playing It Forward Maine is a mother-daughter team formed by Stacey and Abby Ryan that distributes used sports equipment to underprivileged youth in greater Portland.

The Ryans will hold a collection drive Sunday, July 24, in the Falmouth High School parking lot from 3-6 p.m., where they will accept a range of equipment, including lacrosse sticks, balls and eye wear; basketballs and basketball sneakers; footballs and cleats; tennis balls and rackets; field hockey equipment; kick balls, and hula hoops. Among the items that won’t be accepted are helmets, ice skates, hockey equipment, bicycles, surfboards, water floats or ski equipment.

Stacey Ryan said she and her daughter had been “toying with the idea” for a little while, but this year, Abby decided to organize Playing It Forward Maine as her high school senior project because she wanted to do something that would have an impact on the community.

They have partnered with Portland-based Together Reaching Unity, an organization that seeks to create free learning experiences for the city’s youth. Playing It Forward’s first donation will be to kids at TRU’s annual basketball tournament in August.

“We don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into,” Ryan said Monday. “But it can’t be a negative thing.”

She said that while most people clean out their closets each year, she doesn’t think people are as concerned with emptying sports equipment from their garages. She said, for example, a lot of communities have tennis courts “that go unused” by the public, so if she could put tennis rackets in kids’ hands it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

She said she and Abby are focusing mostly on activities people can play in their own communities, such as tennis and basketball, which is why they’re not accepting items that require travel to regional venues like skating rinks or ski areas.

Ryan said they will likely organize another collection in the fall, and “will learn as we go” about what works at the collections.

“Sports had a very positive impact on all four of my kids,” Ryan said, adding she wants to help provide that experience for others.

She said they would like to set up more donation locations around greater Portland in the future, but for now are just focused on Falmouth. While they’ll be transporting the donations in their own vehicles, ultimately they’d like to have a truck donated for the effort. But for now, they’ll wait and see how it goes.

People who have equipment to donate for the July 24 event, but can’t make it, can send an email to playingitforwardmaine@gmail.com to have the items picked up, she added.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Falmouth mother-and-daughter team Stacey, left, and Abby Ryan have started Playing It Forward, which collects used sports equipment to donate to young people in need in greater Portland.

Playing It Forward accepts donations including lacrosse sticks, balls and eyewear; basketballs and basketball sneakers; footballs and cleats; tennis balls and rackets; field hockey equipment; kick balls, and hula hoops.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.