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Tim Harrington could only see a younger version of himself when approached with a vision for better serving at-risk and underprivileged local youth athletes. The former Davenport North High School and St. Ambrose University basketball player shuddered hearing Doug Kratz, the owner of the TBK Bank Sports and Entertainment Center, talk about kids turning away from sports to negative alternatives such as drugs, gangs and gun violence. “Because he was describing me,” explained Mr. Harrington. “I was the kid, as a parent, you were telling your kids to stay away from.” However, the exception was the benevolent mother of a school friend and sports teammate – Mary Lee Osterberg. “Not only did she invite me into her home, she was my transportation,” Mr. Harrington recalled. “She took me to all these events with her children – and that's when I fell in love with sports. She got me off the streets.” And now, inspired by her actions, Mr. Harrington is working to do the same for countless other local kids as a volunteer board member for the Quad Cities Sports Initiative. The new nonprofit organization introduced itself Thursday, Nov. 2, at Mr. Kratz’s Bettendorf sports facility with an official fundraising kickoff. However, the charity said $65,000 in donations already had been pledged in the month prior to the event while contacting potential supporters about attending the kickoff. QCSI Board President Tim Berchtold also reported receiving some donations during Thursday’s presentation. Additionally, the organization received $8,000 of in-kind services from the sports center’s staff to help with the startup, he added, and the QCSI is awaiting word on 10 grant applications totaling another $60,000. “I am amazed at the response so far,” said Mr. Kratz, who started developing the idea of the QCSI in 2019 – about a year after opening his indoor/outdoor all-sports hub. Mr. Kratz had grandchildren realizing the benefits of playing club sports at the time, but he also became dismayed upon learning the average costs to participate were a barrier preventing many families from getting involved. According to statistics from the NCSA (Next College Student Athlete), cited at the fundraiser, one in five families pay more than $12,000 a year on their children’s sports activities with the fees for participating on most club teams ranging between $700-$35,000. And that doesn’t even speak to the problems some families have in transporting their athletes to nightly practices and out-of-town weekend competitions. The problem is how essential club sports have become to high school and college participation – and how long-term exposure to sports leads to a healthier and happier life. The NCSA notes that 90% of the student-athletes who compete now at the college level were on a club team during the recruiting process. Anecdotally, Mr. Berchtold and other speakers Thursday also pointed to the difficulty of making a high school roster these days without club sports experience. The QCSI is trying to address those many inequities by offering support to their local club team partners – and that includes offering scholarships for the neediest. “I hope to get closer to $100,000,” in fundraising to start 2024, Mr. Kratz said. “If we get some of the grants we’ve applied for and some more donations, we can get there. “I said initially if we get between $75,000 and $100,000 this first year, we’ll be off to a great start. But the ideal thing would be to raise $200,000 to help all of those clubs – and our goal is to have 20 to 30 kids on full scholarship as well.” Mr. Kratz added the TBK Bank Sports Complex doesn’t get any more money if more kids become involved in the clubs. “This is not about TBK getting rich,” Mr. Kratz said. “This is about supporting kids and making a better community.” To avoid any conflicts of interest, Mr. Kratz is not on the charity’s board, which formed last October and has met monthly since to work through the IRS approval process among other hurdles. Instead, the board includes local sports figures such as Meg Schebler, an Assumption High School (Davenport) great and a 25-year college administrator, who currently serves as the commissioner of the NAIA’s Continental Athletic Conference. Besides providing team support and athletic scholarships, the QCSI also is developing a curriculum to teach life skills to its athletes. “It's not just about sports, but how much better can you make the community by strengthening families and kids,” Mr. Kratz said. “We hope to make this area even better to live (in) by helping all kids gain access to these opportunities — and you can’t put a price tag on that.” Mr. Berchtold said the scholarship application process begins today at the organization’s website, qcsi.org. Donations also are being accepted there. “This is not for everybody, though,” warned Mr. Berchtold. “We're not the YMCA or the dance club. We want athletes that have the ability to make one of these club teams in a tryout. “They obviously need to have passion because it's a lot more practice — five to six nights a week with competitions in there. So, we want the kids that really want to be involved.” Kids like Tim Harrington was a generation ago. “Before there was a QCSI, there was a Mary Lee Osterberg. She's the reason why I'm standing where I’m at today,” said Mr. Harrington, the managing director of Northwestern Mutual and a coach/mentor to local entrepreneurs and business owners. Life skills. Family values. Leadership. The ability to overcome adversity. The power of a positive mindset. These were the many lessons learned from Ms. Osterberg during his journey. “And most importantly, she helped me realize that my circumstances — my environment — didn't have to be my reality,” Mr. Harrington told the kickoff crowd. “And so, because she was selfless — and she did all these things for me — I was able to go play college basketball, and I was able to get opportunities because of what I learned through her sacrifice.” Several years ago, Mr. Harrington asked Ms. Osterberg why she did what she did, “because she didn't just do it for me. She did it for several other people. I said: ‘You easily could have shunned us.’” Ms. Osterberg’s answer is now Mr. Harrington’s motivation for QCSI moving forward. “She just simply said, ‘It was the right thing to do,’” he added.