Tuesday, August 20, 2019

CISD Athletes Making Difference With Play It Forward

Play It Forward Southlake members Mack Morgan, Preston LeJeune and Alex Johnston (left to right) donated baseball equipment to the Miracle League of Arlington, coming to the rescue for the players including fellow CISD student Jacob Leddy.

Mack Morgan, Preston LeJeune and Kenny Hill are truly game changers in Southlake.

These Dragon student athletes are making the biggest impact of all, not with their respective sports team, but with the work they’re doing to impact those in need. The Dragon trio founded Play It Forward Southlake, a group of student athletes aiding the equipment needs of athletic organizations across the Metroplex. From Mesquite to Arlington and Fort Worth and in its own community, Play It Forward Southlake is pumping new excitement into sports groups.

Play It Forward Southlake collects new and gently-used sports equipment, refurbishes and then distributes to organizations, teams, clubs and individuals in financial need. The experience for these Dragons spearheading the program is showing the servant-hearted spirit of students dedicated to helping others. The non-profit organization, which began in 2010, hopes to leave a legacy for future students.

The idea for Play It Forward Southlake came about after Morgan and LeJeune joined a trip with fellow friends who started Play It Forward Keller. After seeing the impact of donating equipment to Safe Haven in Arlington, Morgan and LeJeune were changed by the experience and started the Southlake group with Kenny Hill.”

“The delivery that made the biggest impact on me was the time Mack and I joined the Keller PIF (Play It Forward) guys at Safe Haven,” LeJeune said. “All of the kids were just amazed that it was their equipment to keep. Most of them had never had much in the way of equipment that just belonged to them.”

Last year, Play It Forward Southlake may have made its biggest impact. The Miracle League of Arlington, a baseball league for children with disabilities, was in need of baseball equipment. The field house for the league’s equipment burned and all the bats, gloves, baseballs and everything was lost. With the combination of Play It Forward Keller and the Pro Players Foundation, a donation drive helped replenish all the lost equipment. The groups collected two trailers full of equipment. The sadness of the lost bats and other items was replaced by an overflowing of generosity.

“Sometimes, I think we get more out of it than the folks in need,” Morgan said.

The impact of helping others is the game changer. Morgan and his fellow classmates see that. They have recruited student athletes Alex Johnston, Cam Manning and Bryce Wasserman to join them. Play It Forward Southlake has donated equipment to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Worth and Mesquite, the Miracle League of Arlington and Safe Haven of Arlington along with other student athletes in Carroll ISD and others in the area.

The program has been supported by Carroll athletic director Kevin Ozee, the Carroll Athletic Booster Club and district advisor Dr. Mary Johnston, Old Union Elementary principal and Alex’s mother. The Old Union campus includes a Play It Forward donation bin and the elementary students regularly contribute to the program. The bin remains at the school year-round and is usually loaded with sports equipment ready to be donated.

“I’ve been impressed with the boys’ dedication in serving others,” Mary Johnston said,” and you can see the good it does for others that aren’t able to play sports without the generosity of others.”

LeJeune and Hill recently reached out to the Old Union campus to show their appreciation. They stopped by and thanked all the little Dragons for their donations, took pictures with the students and emptied the barrel. That’s the kind of impact these students are having. As the idols of the younger generation of Dragons, they hope the future Dragons carry the momentum of this program.

So, where do the high school students store all the equipment? Garages were overflowing and the Pro Players Foundation, a group of athletes and community leaders that assist disadvantaged youth, provided a local storage unit to house the equipment.

Having a full storage unit is a good problem. Because Play It Forward Southlake is producing game-changing student athletes.