One young woman’s gratitude has turned into a mission to make the sport of softball accessible to disadvantaged players locally and throughout the world.
In 2015, Meghan McKeogh founded Stay in Softball (SIS), a Hiram, Ohio-based nonprofit, when she was 13 years old. Her softball team rallied together to help her family with meals and other things so she could continue to play softball while her mom, Karen, recovered from a serious surgery. This kindness affected Meghan immensely, prompting her to start her own altruistic movement.
Meghan initially wanted to help other players experiencing hardship similar to hers advance in the sport. She soon learned other factors that prevented girls from advancing or stop playing the sport altogether. Her softball nonprofit became an organization with a mission to make a difference in the lives of young women who play fastpitch softball so they wouldn’t lack equipment, the standard black uniform pants, training, facilities or the funds to pay fees associated with the sport. Read more about the origin of SIS to appreciate why it exists.
Now 16, Meghan runs the organization with a 10-player advisory board. Because the organization has grown and runs activities throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania, she recently asked another player advisory member, Emily Darlington, to serve as co-chair. An adult advisory board assists in matters that require supervision; however, the girls make the decisions and operate the organization — the free clinics, equipment donations and fundraisers.
Stay in Softball helps individual players suffering physical setbacks. In one case, it paired a player whose arm had been amputated with a coach who also had an amputated arm for lessons to teach her how to play the sport with one hand. In another, SIS held a raffle to donate a special bat to a player whose family member suffered a serious illness.
To help advance players’ skills, SIS sponsors free clinics and individual lessons in the fundamentals of softball and pitching. Recreational and school coaches help improve skills by participating in coaching clinics. Stay in Softball has hosted almost 20 clinics for 500 girls since its inception in 2015. The player advisory board secures talented and experienced individuals to volunteer, helping to make each clinic successful.
In 2018, SIS made global connections with players in Japan and the Philippines. When young U.S. players living in Japan with their parents (men and women in the armed forces) felt out of touch with the U.S. softball community, SIS stepped up to the plate. With the help of an organization named Strive, they sent video messages, SIS T-shirts and equipment to two softball organizations in Japan. They also sent equipment to young players in Philippines, which was an expensive feat, but they found a way to make it happen.
There’s no question Meghan and the advisory board are gaining valuable experience running the organization — experience that will serve them well as they prepare to attend college in the near future.
While SIS represents young girls’ empowerment, accessibility, development, grit and community engagement, Meghan’s favorite thing about her work is simply helping young players, ages 6-8, learn the sport. To her, the younger girls don’t care about looking stupid or messing up. They make friends with each other easily and look up to the volunteers. Ultimately, their goal is to have fun.
When Meghan goes to Hillsdale College in Michigan (fall 2019), and the other advisory members go to their respective postsecondary schools, she is confident the younger players being mentored now will be well-prepared to take up the slack in their absence.
Visit the Stay in Softball website to learn how you can help by donating your time, expertise, dollars or softball equipment.