By LINDA G. RASTELLI
Bailey Taft and Melissa Dominach are 12-years-old who listen to Bruce Springsteen and are active in church. Melissa is a competitive swimmer who aspires to be a veterinarian; Bailey likes tennis and cooking.
Last month the pair, seventh-graders at Knollwood School in Fair Haven, learned that many kids playing soccer through Red Bank Parks & Rec didn’t have necessary equipment. Some of them “needed to share their cleats and shin guards,” Melissa says.
“We thought they needed to have their own in order to play,” says Bailey.
So these two ordinary kids decided to help. They met with Parks & Rec director Bob Evans a to pitch the idea of collecting donations.
“He thought it was a great idea, and gave us a lot of support,” is how Bailey puts it, as if this happens every day.
“They’??re go-getters,” Evans says. “They came to us and asked if we could use equipment, and it snowballed.” He’s hoping to introduce them to the Red Bank mayor and council soon.
From the start, Melissa and Bailey approached the project with entrepreneurial zeal. They named it “Equipment For Kids,” designed a logo, and created a Power-point presentation and a website with the help of their parents. They even went on a speaking tour, talking up their program to church groups, girl scouts and groups at school.
The girls had considered making this their project as part of their taking the sacrament of confirmation next year at the Church of the Nativity in Fair Haven, where they both worship, but decided not to wait. Rev. Bob Schecker, the church’s pastor, arranged for them to store the equipment in a back room at the church.
Already the room is burgeoning with donated soccer, hockey, baseball and basketball gear.
“We’re here to check boxes a few times a week so it doesn’t overflow,” says Taft. “We thought this would be little, but it’s turning into something big.”
Both sets of parents are treating the girls’ endeavor seriously, said Melissa’s mom, Margie Dominach. They’ll be seeking non-profit status for the organization if donations top $25,000, she added. She believes that people are buying new equipment for the purpose of donating it, but “We have no idea who.”
At school, the two said, teachers and students have offered to help. Taft, overwhelmed by the positive response, says: “That’s nice to know. We’ll need help on the delivery day.”
This month, Evans will send a truck to collect the donated gear, and Melissa and Bailey plan to go with him to distribute it. They hope to hand out water bottles with the EFK logo on them, paid for by their families.
In the meantime, they’ve been raffling off t-shirts to raise funds and handing out fliers. Evans suggested a Spanish language flier, which the girls put together with their Spanish teacher’s help. The new superintendent of Fair Haven Schools, Kathi Cronin, wants to meet with them, Margie Dominach said.
The girls spend about two or three hours a week after school on the drive, and its success has them looking beyond the eighth grade.
“Now we realize we want to do it through high school and college,” Melissa says. “We want to help kids less fortunate than we are.”
“It’s been phenomenal,” Evans says of the effort. “A lot of kids who can’t afford things like gloves or cleats are going to be helped.”
Note: Equipment For Kids needs shin guards, cleats, sneakers, soccer balls, baseball gloves, bats, balls, lacrosse sticks, tennis racquets, field hockey equipment, and basketballs. Visit the website for more info.