A group of students from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School in Schenectady has dedicated itself to donating sports equipment to non-profit organizations that focus on youth.

Sports Booth for Youth, an entirely student-run venture started by a recent ND-BG graduate, has already contributed more than $2,000 worth of equipment to the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady and the Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region in Albany.

The teens plan to dream up new fundraisers and "pretty much outdo every year," said Jordan Pantalone, a senior and the group's incoming director. Already, the Sports Booth for Youth Facebook group has an impressive 498 members.

Sports Booth for Youth is comprised of seven board members and countless helpers at fundraisers. Last year, those included a dodgeball tournament, a mini-golf festival and a pancake breakfast.

Ben Ferretti, now a freshman at The College at Saint Rose, created the charity last summer after thinking back on his own athletic career.

Parents provided
"Anything that I needed, [my parents] would always buy for me," explained Ben, a track and field devotee. "And I know not all kids have that opportunity. Everyone should be able to do it if they want to."

When Sports Booth for Youth was created, teachers at ND-BG supervised events and requisitioned the school gym for the group, but Ben and his board did the majority of the groundwork, writing business proposals, presenting ideas and networking with organizations.

"It's just given me such a feel for the business world," said Ben, who'll major in business administration at CSR. "It's almost like being on a team. It's also just a great experience because you get to meet so many people."

The board's membership has been limited, so students must be serious about the group in order to join. Members didn't want it to become just another activity to list on college applications.

Coming up
Jordan, who attends Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Schenectady, said he was honored to be elected as Sports Booth for Youth's next leader - and simply to be a part of the group.

"It was definitely nice to know that we were doing something special," said Jordan, who met Ben through the ND-BG track team. He enjoyed meeting kids at the Boys & Girls Club when the group presented the sporting goods: "It was nice just to see the smiles on their faces."

Like Ben, Jordan said his parents providedd him with baseball cleats, basketballs and other equipment so he could play a sport every season throughout childhood.

"We take a lot of things for granted," he remarked. "The purpose [of Sports Booth for Youth] is just to give back and learn to appreciate what we have."

Sports help kids
Without sports, "I wouldn't be the same person I am," he added.

For low-income children, getting involved with sports "takes their mind off things that they shouldn't be thinking about. I think it's a good way to let off steam."

In the coming school year, Jordan hopes to hold a talent show, a basketball tournament and a dunking booth fundraiser. New groups, such as Girls Incorporated of the Capital Region, will benefit from Sports Booth for Youth's earnings.

Ben plans to stay involved during college, but has a wish for all his successors: "Whoever takes over, I want it to be bigger and better than the year before."