Yardley-based foun­da­tion of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties ‘of a life­time’

Or­ga­ni­za­tion ‘Plants a Seed’ to ‘In­spire a Dream’

The Advance of Bucks County - - YARDLEY-MORRISVILLE AREA - By Cary Beavers

YARDLEY - It’s not the name that’s im­por­tant, it’s the story. This story stars a 16-year-old boy from New­town, name un­known to most, who just wanted to play ball. Some­times, though, life is not that easy. The boy’s fa­ther had died. His mom lost her job. There was no money for him to play. And at this point, no­body knew his story.

But Plant a Seed, a Yardley-based foun­da­tion, heard it. Its founders, Gene and Michele Rice, didn’t want a star­ring role in the story, but wanted to tell it none­the­less. Plant a Seed’s motto is “In­spire a Dream” and its mis­sion is to pro­vide chil­dren from low-in­come fam­i­lies the op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue their pas­sions while in­ter­act­ing with pos­i­tive role models. It was that mis­sion that pro­vided the next chap­ter in the story.

The teenager wasn’t good enough to make his high school team. His town’s Lit­tle League didn’t of­fer a team at his age. He didn’t har­bor real­is­tic big league dreams. He just wanted to play. The Rices were able to finG D OHDguH wKR GLG RIIHU D team for 16-year-olds of all abil­i­ties. More im­por­tantly, the league was will­ing and able to match the boy with a coach who would not only teach him to keep his eye on the ball, but to teach him life lessons as well. The coach be­came a men­tor, of sorts. The boy ended up play­ing on that team for not just one year, but two. Plant a Seed picked up the tab for a glove, two bats, cleats – all the base­ball trim­mings.

The boy’s story was a good one and one of many Plan a Seed could tell, as they’ve seen their num­ber of cases jump from 21 in the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rookie year, 2009, to more than 150 in 2012.

“We just look to take a kid’s in­ter­est and use it to con­nect him with like­minded kids,” Michele said. “We also con­nect him with a per­son from their pas­sion, a pos­si­ble role model. It presents a life-chang­ing op­por­tu­nity.”

Re­fer­ring to the 16-yearold boy, Michele said, “We helped get him through a bumpy road in his life.”

The Rices hear th­ese sto­ries from var­i­ous sources. 7KHy’YH FuOOHG WKHLU EHnH­fi­cia­ries from so­cial agen­cies such as Big Brothers and Big Sis­ters, school per­son­nel, fam­ily mem­bers and the court sys­tem. The or­ga­ni­za­tion was fea­tured in Peo­ple Mag­a­zine as one of the publi­ca­tion’s “Heroes Among Us” in De­cem­ber, 2011. The Rice’s only prob­lem, if they can all it a prob­lem, is that they want to help even more chil­dren be­tween the ages of 10-18.

“We have so many re­quests coming in,” Gene said. “It’s a good prob­lem to have.”

The Rice’s have four chil­dren, rang­ing in age from 19 – 27. They un­der­stand that some­times, things over which a par­ent has no con­trol get in the way of a kid’s life.

“With th­ese eco­nomic con­di­tions, with more par­ents split­ting up, you have to be care­ful that kids don’t slip through the cracks,” Gene said. Both Rices stress that most of the fam­i­lies they deal with are wellinten­tioned. Al­most 90 per­cent of the fam­i­lies are sin­gle-par­ent, though, which brings with it in­her­ent road­blocks. For one, it’s more GLI­fiFuOW WR SDy IRU WKLngs with only one in­come. For an­other, time and trans­porta­tion be­come is­sues with one par­ent.

“Par­ents want to help their kids so much,” Michele said. “But they’re strug­gling to make ends meet.” Plant a Seed of­fers just enough rope to, if not con­nect the ends, con­nect a child with some­thing he or she wants to do. The foun­da­tion refers WR WKH sSHFL­fiF KHOS WKHy RIfer a child as schol­ar­ships, which pro­vide for any­thing from league fees to lessons to equip­ment.

They were in­spired in part by Gene’s ex­ten­sive back­ground work­ing with nonSUR­fiW DgHnFLHs, LnFOuGLng Make a Wish and Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity. Plant a Seed doesn’t of­fer schol­ar­ships with the goal of the re­cipi- ents go­ing on to fame and for­tune in their cho­sen ac­tiv­ity. Then again, most of those ac­tiv­ity’s par­tic­i­pants don’t, ei­ther.

“We don’t ex­pect them to be­come bal­leri­nas or con­cert pi­anists,” Gene said. “We just want them to ex­plore what they want to do. You never know where it’s go­ing to lead. With­out op­por­tu­ni­ties and ex­po­sure, some kids don’t ex­pe­ri­ence things out­side their daily lives.”

Most of the kids Plant a Seed help stay in the pro­gram for one year. Oc­ca­sion­ally, they stay for a sec­ond year. Their growth has made it nec­es­sary to hire Michael Tucker, Plant a Seed’s ini­tial full-time em­ployee. Michele was ba­si­cally work­ing 40-plus hours a week while try­ing to run a house­hold.

Tucker brings an ex­ten­sLYH nRn-SUR­fiW EDFNgURunG and is look­ing to help the Rices take Plant a Seed to big­ger and bet­ter places. Plant a Seed’s board of direc­tors voted to do­nate Tucker’s salary, en­sur­ing that ev­ery dime brought in by the foun­da­tion goes di­rectly to schol­ar­ships.

The Rices read­ily ad­mit that Plant a Seed is far from D finLsKHG SURGuFW. 7KHy strug­gle with de­ci­sions that plague sim­i­lar or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as pro­vid­ing rides to and from the ac­tiv­i­ties.

As Tucker ad­mit­ted, “7KHUH’s D ORW RI nRn-SUR­fiWs who don’t like the li­a­bil­ity that comes with trans­porta­tion. In an ideal world, there would be no friv­o­lous law­suits or li­a­bil­ity, but …” His voice trailed off with the knowl­edge that this is not an ideal world, even if Plant a Seed pro­vides ideal ex­pe­ri­ences for kids who oth­er­wise wouldn’t have the things they love in their world.

Michele also wor­ries about the chil­dren she helps. hnow­ing some of the neigh­bor­hoods in which the kids live, she doesn’t want them walking to and from the ac­tiv­i­ties, which brings them back to the trans­porta­tion is­sue.

Plant a Seed is ap­pre­ci­ated. Con­sider the fol­low­ing tes­ti­mo­nial from a re­cent schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent, whose name was re­moved from the let­ter she wrote to the Rice’s fol­low­ing her ex­pe­ri­enceW

“You guys have just opened up a new door for me. I have al­ways wanted to have dance lessons ever since I was lit­tle … I want to let you know that I am highly grate­ful for your ser­vice. I think it is very gen­er­ous that you guys are giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time.”

One girl’s reg­u­lar dance les­son is an­other’s “op­por­tu­nity of a life­time.”

For more in­for­ma­tion or to re­fer a child, teen or young adult, call 215-8608403 or visit www.plan­taseed­foun­da­tion.org.

From left, Plant A Seed Foun­da­tion Di­rec­tor Michael Tucker and founders Michele and Gene Rice.

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