The COVID pandemic shut down a lot of pro sports — which has turned out to be a boon for young athletes in Dane County.
Sportswear company Under Armour was the equipment sponsor of the NFL Combine, which was canceled last spring due to the pandemic. The Major League Baseball spring training and season were also cut short.
Those developments, and a few other hiccups, left the company with an awful lot of surplus goods, including literally thousands of pairs of football, baseball and soccer cleats, as well as gloves.
“They donated it to the Boys and Girls Club of America, and they wanted to get it to somebody that they knew who could distribute it really fast, and the Boys and Girls Club of America thought about me here in Dane County,” said Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson. “They know we can move.”
Johnson said most of the shoes would retail for $125 or more, and the gloves for $50. He said the donation includes about 5,000 pairs of each.
One hitch was that all the goods were in a warehouse in Atlanta, and had to be moved quickly, so the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County hired some members of the Black Men’s Coalition of Madison to make the drive, put them up in a hotel and rented two sizable trucks to load everything up.
Johnson also contacted former Green Bay Packer Gilbert Brown, who will run some football camps in the coming weeks at Breese Stevens Field as a venue to give away some of the shoes. The BGCDC will also be in touch with local organizations like the South Side Raiders or community centers who can help get the shoes in the hands (and on the feet) of kids who wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise.
Shoes range from size youth 3 through adult 13.
More details about distribution plans will be announced soon. For now, the immediate need is to help BGCDC recoup what it’s spent to send a crew to Atlanta to get the gear, and distribute it when they get back. All told, Johnson estimates BGCDC will spend about $10,000 up front to transport and distribute the equipment, which he hopes the community will help cover.
“For a $10,000 investment, we’re bringing a million dollars worth of equipment into the community,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty amazing stuff.”
To make a donation to help defray the cost, visit bgcdc.org/donate.