About Project Play: Baltimore


It all started when...

the former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, challenged leaders at the 2015 Project Play Summit to grow access to sport for youth across the nation -- and partner with communities to use the Project Play framework for action to rally stakeholders.

Baltimore was the first model community initiative organized by the Aspen Institute's Project Play team. Supported by Under Armour,  it was a bold experiment designed to serve and inspire Baltimore's communities. The UA House, a newly revitalized community center on Fayette Street, served as the hub for the initiative.

The project’s initial two-year focus was on East Baltimore, specifically a two-square-mile area that is home to 19 schools and approximately 12,000 children. Together, the Aspen Institute and Under Armour have:

  • Helped stakeholders understand the State of Play for youth in the community through a custom report (read)

  • Convened local leaders and youth to identify, develop, and sustain opportunities to grow access to sport

  • Recruited regional and national organizations to partner with local groups

  • Brought awareness of local innovations and successes in the community through public outreach

  • Shared learnings that inspired other communities to mobilize leaders around growing access to sport

We have supported motivated leaders and organizations to help Baltimore tell the next great story in its sports history. 


Project Play: Baltimore Impact

Project Play: Baltimore was announced at the 2016 Project Play Summit. Since then, the Aspen Institute has surveyed nearly 2,000 youth in producing the State of Play: Baltimore report (released September 2017), engaged and educated the general public and 150+ community leaders, which included former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, on local opportunities to build healthier children through sports, through town halls, sector-specific roundtables, and presentations to organizations. Project Play: Baltimore was able to draw major local and national media attention to the project and the needs of Baltimore youth in the Baltimore Sun (twice) and ESPN’s The Undefeated. Below are some of the activation efforts that Project Play: Baltimore helped to facilitate in its two years.

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At the 2017 Project Play Summit, the National Fitness Foundation (NFF) announced a commitment to support Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) physical education programs with training and grants for equipment and materials, worth $40,000 from the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. The only congressionally chartered nonprofit focused on health and fitness, NFF partnered with BCPS to host a Presidential Youth Fitness Program training on January 26, 2018. More than 40 PE teachers across the district benefited from the full day of interactive learning.

Read more on fitness.foundation.


USA Field Hockey teamed up with the Living Classrooms Foundation (LCF) and other local leaders to host a Learn to Play Clinic for youth at the UA House. More than 100 youth participated in the March 14 clinic, which ended with USA Field Hockey donating goals, mouth guards, shin guards, balls, and 80+ sticks to LCF. USA Field Hockey hosted a summer camp at Patterson Park UTZ Field June 25-28 serving more than 50 kids per day and will support Living Classrooms' launch of field hockey programming in fall 2018.

Read more on USAfieldhockey.com

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USA Swimming Foundation and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (BCRP) collaborated to host the Make a Splash Tour in Baltimore on June 2 at Druid Hill Park Pool. The tour spreads the lifesaving message of learn-to-swim and water safety skills to youth. Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones joined more than 30 youth in the learn-to-swim session. USA Swimming Foundation awarded BCRP with a $2,500 check to support their discounted learn-to-swim program. Additionally, BCRP is now a Make a Splash Local Partner, making them eligible for grants up to $15,000 to support their swimming needs.

Read more on USAswimmingfoundation.org.


Banner Neighborhoods Community Corporation is focused on developing sports league for youth in the Madison-Eastend and McElderry Park communities. Soccer, basketball, and track/running will be the primary sports offered in a developmental league for children ages 9 – 14 to participate. Programming will start in the fall with soccer in September; basketball will begin in the winter (’19) and track/running in the spring (’19). To help support the launch of the sports programs, Banner is a Year One grant recipient of the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. Banner will also add programming for flag football, kickball, and tennis.

Read more on bannerneighborhoods.org.



"In collaboration with Project Play: Baltimore and USA Field Hockey, the BeMore Athletic League is excited to launch field hockey as a new sport offering this fall to public middle schools in Baltimore. Project Play: Baltimore and USA Field Hockey have been integral in organizing the coaches, equipment and igniting the momentum behind the initiative. Coaches from other sports in the league, such as lacrosse and volleyball, have expressed interest in getting their girls involved in field hockey as a way to expand their horizons in a new sport during a different athletic season."

- Kevin McCloskey, Coordinator of Athletics and Events at Living Classrooms Foundation

"The USA Swimming Foundation is proud to be working with Project Play: Baltimore in providing opportunities for children. Through our partnership with the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, the USA Swimming Foundation is helping to provide the lifesaving skill of swimming to children who otherwise would or could not participate in swimming lessons lessons that can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88% among a demographic in which 64% of children have little to no swimming ability*. A sincere ‘thank you’ to Project Play: Baltimore for connecting us with the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks where, together, we are saving lives and building champions—in the pool and in life."

*2017 USA Swimming Foundation Research Study by the University of Memphis and UNLV

- Tina Dessart, Make a Splash Program Director at USA Swimming Foundation

"Because of Project Play and Andre, we were able to collaborate with the USA Swimming Foundation through their Make a Splash Tour and have Olympic gold medalists Cullen Jones and Josh Davis assist with our learn-to-swim program. This was very big for our kids that attended. If it had not been for the introduction by Andre, this collaboration would have never happened."

- Nikki Cobbs, Aquatics Coordinator at Baltimore City Recreation and Parks