About

OUR STORY

PlaySmart is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that helps underserved 5th through 8th grade students realize their academic and life potential through sports.

Created in 1997 by group of alumni from Princeton University who wanted to provide athletic opportunities to kids who would otherwise not have them, PlaySmart has been able to raise over $1 million dollars and touch thousands of kids live since its inception.

Since our inception, we have helped thousands of kids throughout the United States by introducing them to sports via sports camps, scholarships, and other activities with a sports theme. Presently, PlaySmart has operations in Denver (CO), Omaha (NE), Rye (NY), Newark (NJ), Oklahoma City (OK), Baltimore (MD), Tampa (FL) and Saint Petersburg (FL) and offers programs such as after school sports, branded enrichment programs, quality coaching, scholarships, as well as partnership, mentorship and volunteer opportunities.

By introducing young people to new possibilities, we hope to broaden their perspective, raise their aspirations and level the playing field for all.

PlaySmart works to level the playing field by offering opportunities and programming that foster positive youth development:

  • Branded Programs (PlaySmart Academy)
  • Scholarships (support of student-athletes to further their development)
  • Partnerships (mini-grants to mission similar organizations, leagues and programs)
OUR MISSION

PlaySmart’s Mission is to help kids reach their academic and life potential through sports.

OUR VISION

America’s children will have the necessary skills, abilities and values to be successful academically and in life.

SET THE FOUNDATION

Set the foundation today for healthy development and learning.

  • Sport is a powerful social tool, bringing together people from different ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Sport plays an important role in improving physical and mental health, and fostering active citizenship and social inclusion.
  • Sport is a good entry-point for the promotion of life skills-based education and healthy lifestyles, including the values of physical fitness, proper nutrition and how to make choices that positively impact health.
  • There is evidence that sport and play enhance child development and learning and encourage better academic performance.
  • Sport is a powerful social tool, bringing together people from different ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Sport encourages and improves physical fitness and reduction of childhood obesity: Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Evidence shows that regular participation in appropriate physical activity and sport provides all people, regardless of ability, with a wide range of physical, social and mental health benefits.
  • Sport offers opportunities for the development of peer leaders.
  • Sport increases self-esteem among adolescent girls and provides opportunities for the advancement of girls in the face of gender-related barriers.
  • Sport can build community, aid conflict resolution and foster mutual understanding and peer support among groups in past or present conflict.
  • Sport can be used to promote a safe and protective environment for children and to teach young people how to solve conflict in a non-violent manner.
  • Sport activities can be low-cost and utilize locally-available resources.

Join The Team. Become A Primetime Player!

NATIONAL BOARD

  • DAVID WRIGHT

    Chairman
    Dave hails from Orchard Lake, Michigan, where he played football, ice hockey and rowed for Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s Preparatory. Dave attended Princeton, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and a minor in Politics. At Princeton, Dave played linebacker for the Tiger football squad for four years, and was a member of the 1989 Ivy League Championship team. Following Princeton, Dave accepted a position with Accenture’s Miami office, where he developed business systems for Fortune 500 companies. In 1996, he attended Harvard Business School where he earned his MBA degree and also served as Captain of the Men’s Rowing team. Following Harvard, Dave worked for Parthenon Group, a Boston-based strategy consulting and principal investment firm, where he invested in and advised high-growth companies.

    Clients while at Parthenon included American Express, eBay, McGraw-Hill and Ocean Spray, among others. Dave departed Parthenon in 2001 to pursue an entrepreneurial path and, since that time, has developed a successful business career investing in and operating several businesses, including serving as President & CEO of Indian Motorcycle Company (now owned by Polaris Industries, NYSE: PII), in addition to several other growth-oriented, consumer-based companies. Dave and his wife and their four children reside in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Dave is a Co-Founder and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of PlaySmart, Inc. Dave can be reached at dave@playsmart.org.

  • KEVIN KAVANAGH

    Kevin is a native of Staten Island, New York. A three-sport standout at Regis High School in Manhattan, Kevin went on to become a four-year member of the varsity soccer squad at Princeton, while majoring in Civil Engineering and Architecture. After a stint in investment banking, Kevin completed the Masters in Business Administration program at the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College in 1997. After Tuck, Kevin returned to New York City to work as an equity derivatives trader at Lehman Brothers. In May of 2000, Kevin joined Taconic Capital Advisors, a NYC-based hedge fund where he is currently a Principal and Head of Trading. Kevin married his wife, Amanda, in the fall of 2000 and the couple currently resides in Rye, New York, with their four daughters, Julia, Elizabeth, Claire and Kaitlin. Kevin can be reached at kkavanagh@taconiccap.com.

  • JILL BAKER

    Actively involved with the organization since its inception, Jill joined the Board of Directors in 2005 and served as the organization’s Executive Director from 2009-2011.  Jill was born and raised in the college town of Hamilton, New York. A four sport athlete in high school, she went on to receive a BA in Political Science from Union College in Schenectady, New York. While at Union, Jill played field hockey and softball. A year after graduating from Union, Jill entered Columbia University’s Teachers College and received a Masters in Education. Professionally, Jill earned the certification of Senior Professional in Human Resources and has held the position of Director of Human Resources for Prudential Financial. Additionally, she has worked in the Student Affairs division at Barnard College, the Women’s Center at the University of North Florida and the University of Florida Shands medical center in Jacksonville, FL. Jill was the Collaboration Coordinator for Economic Opportunity at the Skandarlaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in Saint Louis. In this position, Jill worked with emerging entrepreneurs in the university and Saint Louis community. She is an avid skier and cyclist and loves to cook. She is also the #1 fan for her husband’s team and of her two little athletes, Joey and Mia. Jill and her family reside in Dallas, Texas. Jill can be reached at jill@playsmart.org.

  • JOSEPH BAKER

    Originally from Hamilton, New York, Joe graduated from Princeton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. While at Princeton, Joe played wide receiver on the Princeton football squad. After graduation, Joe began a career coaching collegiate and professional football. He was the Assistant Special Teams Coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-1998 and helped guide the Jags to the AFC Championship game in only their second season in the NFL (1996). From Jacksonville, Joe joined the University of Wisconsin’s staff as the Outside Linebacker and Special Teams Coach. While at U-W, the Badgers won the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl. Following the 2000 Rose Bowl victory, Joe joined the New Orleans Saints where he spent five years as an Assistant Coach and helped coach the Saints to the first playoff win in franchise history following the 2000 season. After stops with the Green Bay Packers, St Louis Rams, Denver Broncos and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Joe is currently the Assistant Defensive Backs Coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He and his wife, Jill, live with their daughter, Mia and son, Joey, in Dallas, Texas. Joe can be reached at joe@playsmart.org.

  • FRANK ILLE

    Frank is Oklahoma born and raised. After a stellar three-sport high school career at Bishop McGuinness in Oklahoma City and a 2010 inductee of the Bishop McGinness Athletic Hall of Fame, Frank went on to play quarterback, tailback and linebacker for the Princeton Tigers. Frank graduated from Princeton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. He went on to receive his MBA degree in Marketing from the University of Oklahoma after which he went to work with IMG, the world’s first sports agency and marketing firm, in Cleveland, Ohio. Frank is an Officer and Alumni Executive Committee member of the BMHS Alumni Association (President 2011-2013). Frank volunteers his time coaching youth football and basketball. Frank and his wife, Meg, reside in Oklahoma City where Frank buys and manages real estate for Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Inc. Frank and Meg have three children, Evan, Isabelle & Alexandra. Frank can be reached at frank@playsmart.org.

  • RICHARD KAHN

    Rick is originally from Mahopac, New York, where he was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Mahopac High School. At Princeton, Rick received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and played defensive back and wide receiver for the Tiger football squad. Rick also graduated from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where he received his Masters in Business Administration degree. Professionally, Rick has held a variety of positions within the banking and capital market sector having worked for BMO Nesbitt Burns, Merrill Lynch and XL Capital. Rick currently works in portfolio management and corporate development for Syncora Guarantee, Inc., a New York-based monolineinsurance and reinsurance company. In addition to his programming and fundraising efforts for PlaySmart, Rick has worked with not-for-profit groups such as the Boys and Girls Club of New York, and the New York Cares program. Rick and his wife, Ryann, reside in Hoboken, New Jersey. Rick can be reached at rick@playsmart.org.

  • DEREK LEATHERS

    Derek Leathers, a Texas native, was raised in the Houston area. He earned a degree in economics from Princeton University, where he played center for the Princeton Tigers football team.

    Following graduation, Derek embarked on a career in the trucking and logistics industry. He served as one of the first foreign members of CANACAR, Mexico’s trucking association, and helped draft the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    Since joining Werner Enterprises in 1999, Derek has played an instrumental role in launching Werner’s cross border operations in Mexico and Canada. He served as president of Werner Global Logistics before accepting the role of President and CEO of Werner Enterprises.

    Derek and his wife, Nicole, reside in Omaha, Nebraska, with their daughter, Olivia, and son, Creed. Derek enjoys sharing his passion for athletics by coaching softball and football.  He is also very active in the local community with a particular focus on early childhood education and at risk youth. He currently serves on the board or in an advisory capacity to the following organizations:

    • PlaySmart – Founder and current Board Member
    • Accelerate Nebraska – Advisory Board Member
    • AAA Baseball All-Star Board – Board Member
    • Omaha Men Go Red – Founding Chair
    • Nebraska’s Early Childhood Business Roundtable – Board Member
    • Gretna Youth Sports Foundation – Board Member
    • Omaha Chamber of Commerce – Board Member
    • ALS Association Mid-America Chapter – Corporate Chair 2017 Walk to Defeat ALS

    Derek can be reached at dleathers@werner.com.

  • CHRISTOPHER LUTZ, M.D.

    Chris is from Wayne, NJ, where he starred in football and basketball at Wayne Valley High School. At Princeton, Chris was an All-American football player, performing place-kicking duties for the Tigers, hitting 25 of 28 field goal attempts as a sophomore. Chris earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. After Princeton, Chris went on to study medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Chris is currently a physician specializing in Spine and Sports Medicine at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and New Jersey. He is currently a consulting physician for Princeton University Athletics, and has worked with the New York Giants, Knicks and Nets, as well as several PGA tour events. Chris and his wife, Kimi, have two children, Hailey and Braden, and reside in New York and New Jersey. Chris can be reached at chris@playsmart.org.

  • DARLENE FABELO

    Darlene coordinates PlaySmart’s office functions, accounting and marketing efforts. As a Tampa native, she has been active in many community organizations and is passionate about working with PlaySmart. She worked for 15 years in Ybor City, the cigar capital of the world. Darlene enjoys traveling, networking and marketing activities. Darlene can be reached at Darlene@playsmart.org.

2017, PlaySmart.com