3.2 min readBy Published On: May 3rd, 2024Categories: Features0 Comments on Pay it Forward: Kickoff 4 Kids

“Pay it forward” is the motto of Kickoff 4 Kids, a Southie-based nonprofit that aims to give back to the community and help children in need. Founded in 2017, the organization hosts a myriad of flag football events throughout the year, including the annual Women’s Tournament and—most recently—the “Friday Night Lights” youth football league. Together, the organization’s efforts have raised over $100,000 for the community.

Founder Allison Baker says the inspiration for Kickoff 4 Kids came from witnessing children in need during the holidays. Working at the Tierney Learning Center during Halloween, Baker was surprised to learn that the children there didn’t hold much enthusiasm for the season. “I wasn’t used to the typical responses from them—they kind of knew there was nobody doing anything for them.” Later at Christmas, their reactions only got more disheartening. “I saw how awful Christmas was for those kids, and I just wanted to change it,” Baker says. “I was like, ‘Next year, I’m gonna make sure their Christmases aren’t like this ever again.’”

So, Baker brainstormed with her friends and eventually came up with the idea of hosting a flag football game fundraiser for moms in the community. Over Thanksgiving break in 2017, Baker hosted the first Women’s Tournament, where Southie women of all ages would donate $30 to play flag football and raise money for children in need. To Baker’s surprise and delight, the idea proved successful. “I never in a million years thought it was gonna blow up, and it did. But the first year I did it, we raised about $10,000, which I thought was just the coolest thing in the world.” That money went to making Christmas better for children in the community and—with some left over—to local charities.

Since 2017, Kickoff 4 Kids has grown a lot from just one tournament. It still hosts the Women’s Tournament annually (now in June, to avoid freezing temperatures), but demand is so high that the organization offers two divisions—over 30 and under 30—for over 26 teams of women. And since 2022, the organization also hosts the Youth League, which is somewhat of a collaboration between Baker and some of her original students from the Tierney Learning Center. “They used to enjoy the tournament so much that they said to me, “Can you please have a kids’ league?” Baker was unsure at first, especially since youth football sometimes poses health worries for parents.

But in fall 2022, Baker—along with Victor Baldassari and a board of peers—launched the Youth League, and it blew up more than anything the organization had done before, with 250 signups for the launch season. “That is what really put us on the map,” she says. In some ways, the kids’ league has been a full-circle moment for Kickoff 4 Kids: kids that the organization was founded to help are now giving back to the community by hosting their own league. The league runs in both the fall and the spring. Right now, the second spring season is just getting started, with 530 kids part of the program, the most yet. In keeping with the nonprofit’s values, it also gives financial aid to over 100 kids to allow them to play for free.

As for the future of Kickoff 4 Kids, Baker is looking to launch a youth basketball league this coming summer, after running a word-of-mouth pilot league last summer. Baker also wants to find ways to help kids on their educational journeys, perhaps by giving out scholarships. Whatever the plans, Kickoff 4 Kids is here to stay, Baker says. “We’re not going anywhere—we’re only getting bigger.”

Make sure to follow Kickoff 4 Kids on Instagram for the latest.

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