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Longmont Latinx Voices wants to get more youth into sports

Nonprofit wants to remove financial barriers for underprivileged children
MVT stock sports

As a coach in Longmont for several decades, Vic Vela Sr. has witnessed firsthand the disparity in youth sports participation between white and Hispanic communities.

That’s why he founded the nonprofit, Longmont Latinx Voices, or LLV.

“I see the disparity between the white and Hispanic community, who can participate and who can’t participate because of the money,” he said. “So my thing was, I want to make it an even playing field.”

The group approached the Longmont City Council to help achieve those goals, specifically by providing equipment, uniforms and opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth — not just the Latinx community. The city is in the process of deciding what to do with nearly $1 million from the sale of the Denver Broncos, which is restricted to “youth activity programs.”

LLV requested $100,000 of that money, to be used to purchase sports equipment for youth, sponsor scholarships for children to participate in youth sports and build a financial base to continue this program into perpetuity.

“We want to expand beyond sport, but it's a launching point for us,” said Andrew Thomas, board member with LLV. “It’s a starting point.”

Youth participation in sports can quickly exceed $1,000 due to all the equipment, uniform and league fees. On top of that, families with more than one child participating in an extracurricular can quickly see those costs double or triple.

Vela said he would much prefer children on a sports field being coached than out, bored and unsupervised, which can lead to them seeking entertainment in much more dangerous places. He wants to be proactive in removing those barriers before kids end up involved in drugs or violence.

“It just pisses me off, that it takes a shooting or something to happen to a Latino kid or girl or adult for people to start talking is bulls— to me,” Vela said. “And then nothing happens. I’m tired of it.”

Vela was Thomas’s coach when he was growing up and still remembers the lessons he learned on the field. Now a little league baseball coach himself, he wants children to have the chance to learn those life lessons without the financial barriers that often stop them.

“We, as people who are involved with youth, are involved with youth because we’re trying to create better human beings,” Thomas said. “We need money and opportunity to give many underprivileged and at-risk youth in our community the chance to be in organized sports, to help them become better human beings.”

Vela recalled watching a football game at Longmont High School this school year and noticing how many more Latinx children were on the field, either as football players or cheerleaders. Seeing children and families engage with the community was heartening for him, as it hasn’t always been like that.

“I looked around at the people sitting on the stands — there was a lot of Hispanic families there that wouldn’t have been there if their kids weren’t cheerleading or playing on the field,” he said. “They were proud to see their child out there doing something. That’s what it’s about.”

The Denver Broncos money would go a long way in forwarding LLV’s mission, but the nonprofit plans to continue to pursue its mission regardless. A number of fundraisers are already planned this year, and LLV will be distributing six scholarships this spring.

“We’re not waiting on other people to help us,” Thomas said. “We’re asking the council to help us with money that’s supposed to go back to youth programs within our city. We’re hoping to get all that money, but we’re going to get started regardless.”

Longmont City Council is expected to discuss the possible contribution to LLV at the next regular council meeting.

Amy Golden

About the Author: Amy Golden

Amy Golden is a reporter for the Longmont Leader covering city and county issues, along with anything else that comes her way.
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