By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
Christian Beiter has a vision — one in which every Riverview child who wants to get involved in sports can do so, no matter their economic status.
“Finances should never be the reason a child can’t participate,” the Riverview dad said. So, he formulated a way.
Just a few weeks ago, with the help of a volunteer board and sponsorships from local businesses, the South County Spartans Athletic Program kicked off its first two programs — golf and wrestling.
On its Facebook page, the group uses the words of the famous heavyweight boxing champ Mohammed Ali: “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.”
Beiter is using the Facebook page and word-of-mouth to bring awareness of the program to more parents and children.
So far, he said, 17 children have signed up for wrestling classes at the Gardenville Recreation Center in Gibsonton and 10 have begun golf lessons at Summerfield Crossings Golf Course in Riverview.
Before it’s over, the volunteer board hopes to add track, lacrosse and other sports and grow those numbers into hundreds of participants. Eventually, the groups will compete.
Shelita Jean Baptiste, whose 9-year-old son played football with Beiter’s son, was one of the first to sign on as a volunteer. “I believe in Christian and I believe in this program,” she said. “My son has always been interested in wrestling and for me, I want to make a difference in children’s lives.”
Beiter saw the need firsthand, he said. “Coaching other sports, I saw there were a lot of kids who didn’t get the opportunity to participate because of costs. Also, there aren’t many wrestling or golf programs available in the area.”
For this league, golf is $25 a month and wresting is $8 per class. The county gets a portion of the wrestling fee, and the club gets the remainder, some of which is used to pay fees for kids who can’t otherwise afford it. The remainder pays for insurance and to help grow the program.
“We are looking at adding track and flag football over the next six months and possibly tweaking the age groups, depending on the sport,” Beiter said. “Golf, we made the age a little older because they have to have a certain level of patience and maturity to sit there and listen.”
Right now, wrestling is open to youngsters 6 to 14 years old. Classes are Monday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Gardenville Recreation Center.
Greg White, a retired military officer who was a wrestler at the University of Northern Iowa, is serving as coach.
For golf, the age range right now is 9 to 14 years old. Classes take place Wednesdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Summerfield Crossings. Todd Allen serves as coach.
The group is seeking more volunteers and sponsors and will consider all possible fundraising opportunities.
Board member Michell Mosher does not have a child participating in the league, but was looking for a volunteer opportunity outside the business realm. The South County Spartans Athletics Program fit the bill, she said.
“We are a new organization so it’s a work in progress,” Mosher said. “It’s determining which programs we will move forward with and being able to make this work. Our true mission is to make sure money is not what holds a child back from being able to participate.”
To make that happen, the Spartans have already held a couple of spirit nights at local restaurants and a poker night fundraiser, and are considering a movie night and cornhole tournament.
“Along with that mission is finding kids who want to participate and finding out what else there is a need for so we can offer more,” Mosher said. “If there is a need and desire to bring on another sport, we are open to that.”
To learn more, visit the program’s Facebook page, or call 813-325-5626.