Heartland Pride puts kids on the field

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Success is normally measured by wins and losses for sports organizations.

But for Heartland Pride Sports, success means giving children the opportunity to participate in sports.

Heartland Pride Sports, a not-for-profit organization, was created last August to help Southeast Missouri's youth through sports.

Darrin Pruitt, Heartland Pride's director, said the organization is based on research that shows sports help children develop not only physically but also academically and socially.

This summer, Heartland Pride Sports is sponsoring a 14-and-under traveling softball team, a baseball team for 10-year-olds and a seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball team.

The organization also is hosting a Mid America Youth Basketball tournament in Cape Girardeau from July 30 through Aug. 1.

Pruitt said he would like to host another basketball tournament this winter and two next summer. He believes the events help children beyond the field of play.

"By hosting tournaments and placing them on teams, we hope to improve them socially and academically, as well," Pruitt said.

All players agree to an ethics code established by the Heartland Pride Sports board of directors. Pruitt said the board searched through ethics codes to find one that would best help the players develop.

"They will be good community citizens," he said.

In order to make sure the players are living up to that standard, parents submit their children's report cards to Pruitt, who said he also trusts that the players would report problems themselves.

Heartland Pride Sports has 30 girls and boys playing for teams, but Pruitt said the organization wants to help more youths, even outside of team competition, by providing underprivileged children with sports equipment and to help those families with the cost of playing in leagues.

"We just want to get kids involved," Pruitt said.

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