New initiative aiming to break down barriers | ParkRecord.com

New initiative aiming to break down barriers

Integration through Recreation held first event on Sunday

Local children pose for a picture at St. Marys Church with Diego Zegarra of Park City Community Foundation and members of Real Salt Lake, including Parkite Sebastian Saucedo and team's mascot, on Sunday afternoon. Zegarra helped host Sundays event, the first of a new initiative that aims to guide Latino youth to participate in local sports programs.

Park City is known for many things, but its youth sports programs, winter sports or not, have always thrived. Some programs have led locals, such as Olympian gold medalist Ted Ligety and Real Salt Lake soccer player Sebastian Saucedo, to professional athletic careers.

However, there's a large group of people in the community who feel they are being overlooked. With how popular some of these programs can be — some of them are booked within minutes of being online — low-income Latino families seem to be left out in the cold.

"It's hard for any family — time-wise, money-wise," said Sarah MacCarthy, Bilingual Outreach Coordinator for Park City Community Foundation. "There are a lot of challenges that present themselves, but it is even more challenging for low-income Latino families because of the barriers."

MacCarthy, along with Diego Zegarra, the Development and Special Projects Manager for Park City Community Foundation, found there are three main barriers that keep the group from participating: outreach and communication, scholarship and gear, and transportation.

With the help and vision of local donor Beano Solomon, Zegarra headed on Sunday afternoon the first event of The Solomon Fund: Integration through Recreation at St. Mary's Church to address the outreach and communication barrier.

The event lasted for two hours for low-income Latino families in the community to come and sign up for local programs.

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"It was successful," Zegarra said. "We hit our goals. Some agencies signed up more Latino kids that one day than the rest of the year. That's impactful."

Some of the agencies present were Park City Recreation, Basin Recreation, Youth Sports Alliance, Park City Soccer Club and Ballet West (Ballet West ran out of spots at Sunday's event). Each of them had documents that were translated into Spanish, and if the agency did not have a Spanish-speaking employee, Zegarra and other Spanish speakers helped.

"We see multi-faceted benefits, ranging from healthy lifestyles, an increase in academic achievement — because there's more and more data that backs up that kids that participate in sports succeed academically — [and a] sense of belonging and integration," Zegarra said. "These are all our donor's wishes and our wishes."

The event went smoothly, Zegarra said, as there were at least 100 families present and more than 100 unique sign-up opportunities. In addition to the agencies, Saucedo, who the kids in attendance went in a frenzy over, along with the Real Salt Lake Mascot, were in attendance. Park City High School boys' basketball head coach, and former NBA champion, Mike Doleac was also there.

"I think it's important to showcase some homegrown talent there and kids were able to see it," Zegarra said.

Though Zegarra is happy with the fact his team met their goals for the event, he feels there's still a long way to go in the grand scheme of things.

"We set out with a goal, which is 24 percent participation in sports and rec [among low-income Latino families]," Zegarra said. "The reason being is 24 percent is the number of students in the school district that qualify for free or reduced lunch. Right now, leagues have anywhere from zero to 18 percent low-income Latino family participation.

"We want to address that."

The event has sparked the conversation among agencies that didn't participate originally. They want in, and there are plenty of young Latino kids in Park City hoping to occupy their programs.

"The cat is out of the bag," Zegarra said. "We're going to be promoting this initiative and shooting for that goal of 24 percent."