Kicking up a storm for D.C. youths

Monday, July 12, 2010

Amy Nakamoto, executive director of an after-school program, juggled a soccer ball with her feet 88 times before it touched the ground. It was a record for her as she stood on the corner of M and 18th streets in Northwest Washington recently for 12 hours juggling the ball in 100-degree heat.

"A little sacrifice for some money isn't so bad," Nakamoto said while taking a break.

Attempting to close a $130,000 budget gap, she and the staff of DC Scores hosted a fundraising challenge during the soccer World Cup. It kicked off with Nakamoto's 12-hour, two-day ballhandling challenge that was streamed live as staff members contacted donors, friends, family and colleagues.

DC Scores is a 16-year-old nonprofit that offers a curriculum of soccer, poetry and service learning to help youths in 23 public schools in the District.

Officials at the organization said grants and other funding sources were cut, forcing them to make some unpleasant choices.

"When the recession hit, we had to go into our reserves," Nakamoto said. "This year, it wouldn't be fiscally smart. We can't do that again."

She said they will do everything possible to avoid it.

Passersby stopped to throw cash in a basket or show off their juggling techniques as staff members chalked new fundraising amounts on the ground. On the second day, in the morning, it was $27,468. By the end of the challenge, they had raised $47,566.

"We've gotten a lot of positive responses," Nakamoto said. "I can't complain about $50,000 in two days."

-- Vanessa Mizell

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