This summer is a great time to sort though the kids' sports equipment that's gathering dust in garages, attics and closets. But what to do with that extra soccer ball, the too-small baseball bat or the basketball that's no longer dribbled?
Think Robbie Palmisano.
The Hereford High School rising senior collects gently used sports equipment from recreation councils and families in the Hereford Zone and donates everything to recreation councils in Baltimore city.
He named his program All Kids Should Play and is in the process of applying for nonprofit status.
"Why throw out sports equipment when it can make such a lasting difference in another child's life? Everybody has stuff they don't use anymore and now there's a way to put it to good use," said Robbie, 17.
The whole idea started last February with a crowded closet at Fifth District Elementary School's gym. Guy Ward, basketball commissioner, wanted to clear out 200 pairs of roller skates no longer being used so he could store basketballs in the closet. He called another basketball coach, Rick Palmisano, Robbie's father, to help him with the chore.
Robbie and his father loaded the skates into their SUV and brought them to their Phoenix home instead of going to the dump.
After cleaning them up, Robbie went online to find them a new home. He came up with Lakeland Recreation Center in Baltimore that offers skating and arranged to deliver the skates.
"The kids' response was phenomenal. They were beyond exuberant. Some were even crying," Robbie recalled. "So I thought, why not do the same thing with other sports equipment?"
Ward was not surprised that Robbie followed through. "We had talked about finding someplace for the skates, and he's organized enough to actually get it done," Ward said.
Robbie then contacted North County recreation councils and soon gathered used soccer goals, uniforms and cleats, lacrosse sticks and balls, basketballs and volleyballs.
When individuals called to say they had sports equipment, Robbie and his father arranged for pick-up in a school parking lot.
Last September, Robbie called Don Salamone, program assistant with Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks and offered more than 140 pieces of baseball gear, including bats, balls, bases, helmets, gloves, uniforms, catchers' masks and chest protectors.
"It's fabulous. He goes out of his way to make sure everything is done right," Salamone said. "I recently had a team that needed gloves and I was able to give them 10 that Robbie gave me."
Salamone has a storage unit that is now filled with "All Kids Should Play" equipment delivered by Robbie. "All the teams know to call me if they need something. I have thousands of kids in baseball, soccer, lacrosse and they all know I have extra equipment."
Robbie also collects equipment at Hunt Valley Church and organized a weekend event at Dick's Sporting Goods in Hunt Valley Towne Centre last year. He set up donation boxes in the store and anyone who donated used equipment got a raffle ticket for a drawing. The prize was a $100 Dick's gift card.
His most recent success story was getting Under Armour to donate all sorts of brand-new equipment.
He has received, but not yet distributed: 18 pairs of girls/women's running shoes; four basketballs; two footballs; 40 wrist bands; 40 head bands; 40 skull caps; 12 pairs of socks; two backpacks; three small sports bags; and a baseball duffel bag.
He said All Kids Should Play will take everything from golf clubs and tennis rackets to cleats that were only worn one season. The only thing he can't take is football helmets because of liability issues.
Robbie, who has played basketball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and golf, said he never imagined his first gesture of generosity with the roller skates would take on a life of its own a year later.
"Kids who are active and engaged in a sport have more self-esteem, responsibility and drive," he said. "That's why I'm always looking for new people to help with the effort. The more people know about this, the more we can collect and the more kids we can help."
To learn more about the project or to find out how to donate, go to http://www.allkidsshouldplay.org.