community volunteers

Up2Us Coach of the Year…


Make that Connector of the Year! Up2Us is a national movement that is based on one very powerful word:  connections.

Far too many children drop out of school because they do not feel connected to their teachers or to other classmates. Far too many boys join gangs because they do not feel connected to society. Far too many girls find themselves as teenage mothers because they do not feel connected to adult role models.

Up2Us uses the unique power of sports to create connections.  Life affirming connections between kids and their coaches, kids and their teammates, and kids and the wider community.

Key to making these connections possible are our coaches who work everyday to give our youth this sense of belonging.   Properly trained coaches provide children the unique opportunity to develop their life skills in a nontraditional setting. For many kids in urban America who are isolated because of poverty, broken families and underserved communities, this coach may be the most critical connection of them all.

Tonight is the first ever Up2Us gala. It will be attended by celebrities, athletes, coaches and other stakeholders from across the country who believe in the Up2Us mission.  Every guest in attendance has one thing in common:  they achieved their success in life because of some connection that meant something to them and inspired them to be great. That's why the focus of this gala is to celebrate three special connectors, the Up2Us Coaches of the Year.

These Coach Across America coaches were chosen by kids and colleagues from their communities because of their impact on health, violence and academics.  Coach Ebonee from Los Angeles uses sports to connect at-risk kids to a lifelong love of exercise and physical activity.  Coach Michel from Chicago uses sports to connect gang members to positive peer groups who help them say to no violence.  Coach Payne from Boston uses sports to connect at-risk students in failing public schools to a renewed commitment to their education.

I have often written that Up2Us is the solution to the challenges of juvenile violence, school dropout rates, and childhood obesity. Up2Us is the solution because it is about the kinds of connections demonstrated by these amazing coaches. They deserve to be celebrated at a gala in New York with legendary figures like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wynton Marsalis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in attendance.

They are the Connectors of the Year.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director

If I Had 1 Cent of Every NRA Dollar…


I'm not writing this blog to debate gun control and whether or not you have the right to bear arms. I'm writing this blog to discuss the dollars that go into this debate versus solving the real problem at the community level of raising a generation of Americans who value and respect life.

Let's start with the facts.  Every year in this country about 3000 children lose their lives to gun violence.  Another 17,500 youth are injured from guns.  A large number of the victims of this violence go unnoticed because they live in poorer, mostly minority communities where gun violence is commonplace and barely makes the nightly news.

However, this is all starting to change.  Gun violence involving children has now gone prime time.   This is partly due to the random nature of some of the most recent incidents, the fact that these crimes are occurring in wealthier communities and the sudden attention given to this problem at the national level by politicians.   And with prime time coverage, comes the debate and money being spent to fuel it.

If I had one cent of every dollar the NRA spent this past year, I would have $2,300,000.  That's right, more than 2 million dollars!

I would use this money to engage 32,500 kids in safe, structured after-school programs in the communities in this nation with the highest rates of gun violence.  I would ensure these kids have sports teams to belong to that reinforce life skills development and not gangs that condition them towards violence.  I would do this by hiring 200 adults to be "coach-mentors" for these kids everyday of the year.   I would train these coaches to use the power of sports to address conflict resolution, trauma and other mental health issues that these young people confront on a regular basis.   I would help these coaches maximize their time with these kids so that these vulnerable youth experience positive relationships with other youth, their coaches and community volunteers.   I would measure the success of these programs through the reduction of violent acts that take place among the youth participants and within our communities.

If I had one penny of every NRA dollar…I'd put it to less talk and more action.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director