2:51 | Transcript
From taking your high school volleyball team to state, to enjoying a round of golf with friends — for many of us, sports have shaped our lives with memories, connections and new skills. But not all kids have the same access to sports and equipment, preventing them from gaining experiences and skills that many of us take for granted.
Research shows sports impact kids’ physical, emotional and social well-being — and the World Health Organization concluded there is a correlation between physical education and academic achievement. Furthermore, sports have the power to improve young people’s personal development, including self-esteem, goal-setting and leadership.
Sixteen-year-old Rishan Patel, founder and CEO of Alley-Oop Kids, grew up playing basketball around the San Francisco Bay Area. In the last few years, as he began traveling for games across his city, he realized that access to sports was far from equal for all kids. He also noticed how much extra equipment and gear he and other families had lying around.
“It got me thinking — why not do something about it?” Patel said. “Why not collect all this gear and give it to kids in our community who could really use it?”
In 2022, at just 15 years old, Patel became the founder of Alley-Oop Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing sports to kids globally. Together with his friends, he began collecting new or gently used sports equipment and they installed their first “Lending Locker” in East Palo Alto.
“The process is pretty simple: we work with under-resourced schools and youth organizations, providing them with a secure locker filled with sports equipment and gear that they can easily access,” Patel said. “But what’s unique about our process is we engage a student at each site as a Lending Locker captain. These captains work with us year-round to keep lockers full of high-quality equipment that fits each location’s unique needs, ensuring the school’s supply of equipment continues well after our initial donation.”
After receiving overwhelming gratitude from recipients of their first Lending Locker, Patel and Alley-Oop Kids took off running — building more lockers and in turn, improving sports equity in communities all over the world. What started as an idea in Patel’s head less than two years ago has grown into an organization that has already installed 130 Lending Lockers with another 100+ planned for 2024, bringing sports gear to more than 100,000 kids globally.
“Our firm knows the power that sports have to shape a more equitable and inclusive future, which is why we are humbled by this opportunity to work with Alley-Oop Kids,” said Seth Siegel, CEO of Grant Thornton. “This innovative team is helping to bring all the benefits of sports to youth around the world, and we’re excited to support them.”
While Patel knew the value of sports and equipment, he had no idea the ways he would create change in communities around the world.
“One of my favorite stories is of a high school soccer team in Richmond, California. Our Lending Locker provided them with practice balls, goals and even uniforms — and they started stepping up their game on the field, catching the eyes of college scouts,” Patel said. “Seeing their success and the potential for college offers is why I do what I do.”
Patel and Alley-Oop Kids have a bright future. In 2023, he was honored with the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award at the ESPYs. And in just a couple years, he’ll be heading off to college, where he plans to build skills to pursue his passion for social impact and entrepreneurship. In the meantime, he is dedicated to ensuring the future of Alley-Oop — and that’s where you can help.
“Right now, we’re an organization for kids, by kids — but with continued support from people who believe in us, we’re building the infrastructure to sustain us into the future,” Patel said. “Our dream is to build more lockers to support youth globally — and with help from people like you, I’m confident we’ll get there.”
You can lend a hand to Patel and Alley-Oop Kids in their mission to bring sports to more youth, too, one Lending Locker at a time.