More than a good sport.
It’s been a year since the launch of our Community Heroes grant program. And in that time, we’ve had the pleasure of supporting four – and counting – local organizations in their quest to empower and uplift the communities where they live and work.
For a deeper look into who these organizations are, this blog series will focus on the inspirational stories behind some of the 2017 and 2018 Gexa Community Heroes grant winners and their invaluable contributions in and around the Houston area.
For many of us, sports played an integral role in our childhood. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis – no matter what your sport was, all those after-school practices and weekend games added up to new friendships and lifelong healthy habits, and also taught the value of good sportsmanship. But for some children, money and other socioeconomic factors can quickly become obstacles that get in the way of their participation in sports. Yet shouldn’t something as simple as playing soccer or baseball be an opportunity all children are afforded? For one Houston-area non-profit, the answer was yes – and then some.
Oaks Dads’ Club was founded in 1954 by a group of Houston dads hoping to find a way to increase engagement and strengthen community ties. Fast-forward to today, and Oaks Dads’ Club has evolved from a single field to three separate locations and offers local children, ages four through 16, the chance to play baseball, softball and soccer. But one thing that’s remained steadfast throughout all this development is a commitment to inclusion. The club prides itself on offering generous scholarships to players who might otherwise be unable to afford its programming. And unlike many sports clubs, Oaks Dads’ Club is a true recreational sports club, meaning anyone, regardless of ability, is able to play.
But like many grassroots organizations, none of this happened overnight. As noted by the club’s president, Danielle Soria-Orozco, Oaks Dads’ Club has always been one hundred percent volunteer run and operated. That means from the teams’ coaches to event volunteers to the club’s board of directors, everything is made possible by involved parents and community members. And for some of these volunteers, being a part of the organization isn’t just about being a good citizen. In fact, “Many of the parents and grandparents of current players at the Oaks Dads’ Club were players here themselves.” And their dedication is a large part of what caught the eye of Gexa Energy’s Community Heroes grant selection committee.
Gexa’s Community Heroes grant came about in 2017 and is awarded quarterly based on nominations from the community. Oaks Dads’ Club was the first winner of the grant – an honor that has since been awarded to three other Texas nonprofits making a positive impact in their communities. Soria-Orozco, who applied for the grant, notes that it had been a while since the organization had the opportunity to pursue grants and outside funding opportunities. But when a fellow board member – a Gexa customer – sent her the link to Gexa’s grant, she didn’t think twice before submitting an application. Four months later, she received the good news the club was hoping for.
With the $500 grant, Soria-Orozco says Oaks Dads’ Club was able to fund some necessary maintenance and upkeep as well as replace equipment damaged and lost during the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. And looking ahead, the future is bright for Oaks Dads’ Club. In March, the organization held their annual Opening Day ceremonies, celebrating the start of another year with a parade and day-long festivities. Soria-Orozco also notes that in her current position as president, she hopes to set the board’s sights on some new priorities, including a new parking lot for their primary club location, more netting for their baseball and softball fields, and some renovations on their Candlelight field.
To learn more about Oaks Dads’ Club and their work in the greater Houston area, visit www.odcsports.com.