Pass It On, Canby! founder Heather Wright Zimmer was inspired to start the youth sports gear recycling program as a coach for her then-6-year-old daughter’s soccer team back in 2019.
She noticed one of the players was always late to practice. Then, she learned why.
“I realized that she needed to wait until her brother was done with practice, so she could use his soccer gear,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Not in my town.'”
Zimmer and other parents were able to quickly cobble together cleats, shin guards and other donations for the family. It was so easy, it begged the question, “Why not do more?”
“I just started thinking, ‘How many other kids fit into this category?'” Zimmer recalled. “There are scholarships [for athletic fees] to play, but scholarships for gear don’t exist.”
The issue certainly wasn’t a lack of equipment still in good enough shape to, well, pass it on. As most parents of young athletes know, they tend to outgrow gear before they have a chance to wear it out.
“Kids grow so fast at this age, they barely use them,” Zimmer said in the storage room for Pass It On, Canby! last week, holding a barely used kids’ size 10 soccer shoe.
But, unless they have younger siblings with similar interests, the equipment usually wound up in yard sales, Goodwill or forgotten in the bottom of the closet.
Enter Pass It On, Canby! The organization began with the blessing — and under the nonprofit umbrella — of Canby Kids, Inc., which has provided youth recreational and competitive teams sports opportunities for children in and around the Canby area since it was founded in 1975.
The group partnered with several local businesses to host donation bins — and the gear started pouring in.
“In this community, it’s amazing how often people just say, ‘Yes,'” Zimmer said. “People just started donating so much stuff.”
Zimmer said that, for the families who have been able to take advantage of the opportunity to “shop” for their children’s youth sports needs — at no cost — the sense of relief is obvious.
“Maybe they had a hard month or they’re wondering how they’re going to keep their kids in sports when it can be such a huge extra cost,” she said. “When they’re able to come and get the gear that they need, they realize it’s something they don’t need to plan for.”
Pass It On quickly outgrew its original location in a small storage unit and began looking for more permanent digs, which they ultimately found in the basement of Ultimate Team Spirit on Northwest 1st Avenue in downtown Canby.
During Covid-19, the nonprofit effort has been somewhat sidelined. While contributions continued to trickle in, the uncertainty of athletic and educational opportunities placed sports on the back burner for many families.
Now, however, the requests are coming in hard and fast — particularly for baseball, softball and soccer.
The group is currently offering shopping hours by appointment only. Pass It On can accommodate up to two families for 20 minutes at a time.
“This is the last place we want all this gear,” Zimmer said, standing amid the group’s increasingly crowded shelves last week. “We would love to have it out in the hands of the kids.”
Families interested in making an appointment should message Pass It On, Canby! on Facebook or Instagram, text or call Zimmer at 503-706-3568, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations of new or gently used, clean youth sports equipment may be made at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, 489 SW 1st Avenue; Cutsforth’s Thriftway, 225 NE 2nd Avenue; Millar’s Point S Tire and Auto, 1175 SE 1st Avenue; Oliver Insurance, 101 N Ivy; Ultimate Team Spirit, 248 NW 1st Avenue; and CrossFit Wilsonville, 25589 SW Canyon Creek Rd #100.
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