Sports Boosters Continue To Hit Home Runs For Local Kids

(Photo provided)

For all that Ron Levine does for local youths throughout the year, he doesn’t ask for anything in return.

As executive director of Sports Boosters of Maryland, Levine is a man very much involved in local sports and the betterment of area communities.

According to Levine, 67, of Pikesville, the work is just his way of giving back, particularly to those who reside in underserved neighborhoods.

“We love knowing that we are able to make an impact in the lives of children in a big way. This is what we do at Sports Boosters of Maryland,” Levine said passionately.

The organization, which was started 67 years ago by a group of local men, raises money to assist local organizations with the purchase of uniforms, equipment, scoreboards and field prep, among other needs.

The goal? To promote the advancement and enjoyment of amateur as well as professional sports for children and adults while providing related educational and charitable services.

By bridging budgetary gaps for schools, nonprofits and others, Levine said, Sports Boosters of Maryland views itself as a link that provides aspiring athletes opportunities that may not otherwise exist.

Since its founding, Levine estimates, the organization has raised more than $1 million and benefited “more people than I can count.” The Jewish community has been among those to reap the benefits, as Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, Jewish Community Services and Talmudical Academy of Baltimore have all received grants.

While some of the help comes from $100 yearly or $1,000 lifetime memberships, a lot of the organization’s fundraising comes in the form of raffles, bimonthly dinners and an annual banquet.

Besides a little stipend that is set aside for the executive director — “and believe me, it is not much” — Levine said with a laugh, all proceeds are donated to support children’s sports programs.

Members of the Baltimore Terps youth football program celebrate receiving a grant from Sports Boosters of Maryland. (Photo provided)

Whether it’s a $500 or $5,000 grant that the organization presents, the reactions, Levine said, when awarding grants are priceless. Recipients often exude a sense of of relief, celebration and gratitude.

“We like to know that our money is being used for more specific items such as equipment,” Levine said, “and that it is directly going to organizations.”

Off the playing field, Sports Boosters of Maryland has also made an impact on students in the classroom.

Several years ago, the organization helped organize the Shoes for Grades program. It was created to provide an incentive for high school sophomores in select schools to improve academically. Those who improve their GPA by a full letter grade or maintain an A average from the second semester of their freshman year to the first semester of their sophomore year are awarded $75 gift cards to Shoe City.

“Knowing that everything we do is going back into organizations, schools and more, especially to some really greats ones, that’s a really special feeling,” Levine said.

Levine said he was initially drawn to the organization in 1979, citing his love of sports and charitable causes. He has been involved ever since, serving in several capacities. In addition to his current role as executive director, he has served as president and on the board.

Over the years, Levine noted, the organization has experienced a lot of growth. He said the bimonthly dinners and annual banquet have become a hit, allowing members and nonmembers alike to reconnect with their favorite professional athletes.

For Levine, getting calls “from Boog Powell, Jim Palmer or Ken Singleton,” he said, referring to the Orioles icons, “It’s pretty neat that you can talk to these guys.”

The annual banquet, which was held last week at the Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley and featured former Orioles radio play-by-play announcer Fred Manfra, regularly draws 400 to 500 people.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” Levine said. “Even though we didn’t fill the entire ballroom, which can fit about 600 to 700 people, people want to help us in whatever way they possibly can.”

In the glow of the celebration, Levine said he feels the future is bright for Sports Boosters of Maryland. He sees no reason why the organization can’t continue to grow and evolve to continue meeting the needs of the area for years to come.

“We hope to continue carrying out the mission of what the organization was founded on for many years to come,” Levine said.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

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