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Three Oviedo dads team up to give every local kid a chance to play the sports they love.

More than a decade ago, Kevin Masih, Jamie Rudolph, and Lance Ragland began meeting for breakfast about once a month. They were Oviedo businessmen who worked in related fields. Common clients or friends introduced them to each other, and it didn’t take long for the three men to forge a unique friendship.

Discussions at those breakfasts would typically start with business matters and then turn to youth sports. All three men had children who played recreational sports, and all three were definitely what you would call sports dads.

Kevin, a financial advisor with two grown children, often found himself advising the other two, who had younger kids. Kevin grew up playing sports and knew how much he and his children benefited from the experience, but he was always aware that not every young athlete was able to play.

“During the years that my son played youth baseball, I served on the board,” Kevin says, “and every season we got letters from people who, for one reason or another, couldn’t afford to sign up. The league would waive a handful of [registration] fees, and I thought that was great, because you never want a kid to not be able to participate because of certain circumstances.”

So, at one of his breakfast meetings during the summer of 2013, Kevin told Jamie and Lance about an idea of his to start a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to raise money and make donations to local youth sports organizations. The money would help the leagues waive registration fees for kids whose families couldn’t afford them. He wanted to call it HelpKidsPlaySports.Org (HKPS).

“I brought up the idea, and we agreed to start it together,” says Kevin, who is the organization’s cofounder and president. “We put the paperwork together, we got approved [for nonprofit status], and that’s how we  got started.”

The three men reached out to families, friends, and businesses, and the donations started pouring in. To date, has raised more than $40,000 and has helped more than 1,200 kids participate in youth sports in Seminole County and Northeast Orlando.

Among the many youth sports organizations that HKPS has helped are Oviedo Babe Ruth, Oviedo Little League, Oviedo YMCA Youth Sports, and Winter Springs Basketball League.

“We wanted to provide the opportunity for kids, who may not otherwise be able to participate, to benefit from what youth sports can do for them, both mentally and physically,” says Lance, an Oviedo attorney who is HKPS’s cofounder and vice president. “I didn’t play a lot of organized sports as a kid, and I think I missed out on some of the life lessons that playing sports and being part of a team can teach you at an early age. The lessons that I see my own kids learning every day in the gym and on the field are invaluable, and they will carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives.”

Jamie, a certified public accountant, says HKPS also helps local youth sports organizations compete with increasingly popular – and very expensive –  travel leagues.

“We feel it is important that these local leagues get some assistance,” says Jamie, HKPS’s cofounder and treasurer. “There is still great value in the community league, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, or any of the youth sports. Ultimately, we don’t want finances to be a barrier for children to play youth sports.”

All money donated to HelpKidsPlaySports.Org goes directly to local youth sports clubs and organizations, which in turn help identify families in need of assistance. The target age group for recipients is 12 and under. More than half of the money raised by HKPS comes from its annual golf tournament. Kevin says the goal is to raise $15,000 per year.

“There’s a saying that a healthy person has good physical, mental, and social well-being, and sports can help people with all three,” Kevin says. “And if you can help kids on the path to being healthier, it’s going to help them and our community.”

Kevin says sports certainly helped him as a youth growing up in New York. He played soccer and tennis as a young boy and went on to play tennis in college at Long Island University, where he met his wife Cherry. Kevin’s job as a tennis instructor helped pay for his master’s degree, too.

He also notes that children who play sports tend to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.

“Sports really gave me everything in life,” Kevin says. “It gave me my work ethic, my best friends, my wife, and my health.”

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