By Lauren Caldwell
On spring afternoons in Washington, D.C., the streets come alive with men and women in sweatbands, sneakers, and brightly colored t-shirts. For many residents, recreational sports leagues—and the requisite post-game pitchers of beer on restaurant patios—are the center of social life in the District.
With nearly two thousand members, Stonewall Sports has become one of the most visible recreational sports leagues in the area. Yet what sets the league apart is its commitment to charitable giving. Since its establishment in 2010, Stonewall Sports has donated more than $12,000 to City Dogs Rescue to further its mission of rescuing dogs from overcrowded and high-kill shelters.
Stonewall Sports was founded to provide a positive and inclusive environment for the LGBT community and allies, and has grown to include dodgeball, kickball, bocce, darts, and billiards leagues. Philanthropy is at the core of its mission: Teams compete to donate to charitable organizations of their choice, raising money through fundraising events, sponsors, and low-cost registration fees.
“Stonewall Sports has three core values: fun, philanthropy, and building a community through sports,” founding member Melvin Thomas said. These values attract community members with big hearts, who often care passionately about animal welfare, Thomas said.
Lane Hudson, a lifelong rescue dog owner, has helped to raise more than $3,000 for City Dogs Rescue through his Stonewall Bocce team. Hudson and two of his teammates have also fostered dogs through City Dogs Rescue.
“It’s wonderful to see the impact of the money you win for City Dogs Rescue,” Hudson said. On City Dogs Rescue social media accounts, donors can follow the journey of a dog from its rescue—when it is often unhealthy and fearful—to its eventual placement in a caring home in the Washington, D.C., area.
This tangible impact is a key feature of Stonewall’s charitable giving strategy. By partnering with local organizations, teams can make a measurable difference in their community, member Austin Henderson said. For example, in order to rescue one dog from a shelter, City Dogs Rescue must raise $250 and find a local foster home. Every $250 donation helps to cover veterinarian, transportation, and other expenses that typically exceed the adoption payment.
Although Stonewall Sports is a young organization and run entirely by volunteers, its presence is strongly felt in the community. One can hardly enter a gym or grocery store without encountering a Stonewall Sports t-shirt, Thomas said. And for members who have painful childhood memories associated with dodgeball, Stonewall Sports provides an opportunity to “be your most authentic self” in an environment free of judgment.
With $48,000 donated to charitable organizations in the first half of 2015, Stonewall Sports teams in Washington, D.C., are on track to donate $100,000 annually, Thomas said. In addition to City Dogs Rescue, past partners have included the DC Center for LGBT Community, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL), The Wanda Alston House, and Casey Trees, among many others.
Looking ahead, Stonewall Sports will continue to grow its presence outside the District. On July 17-19, the organization will host its first national tournament, inviting teams from Illinois, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to celebrate five years in operation. Stonewall Sports will also expand its partnerships with local organizations, seeking opportunities to not only donate money, but to actively engage with meaningful causes, member Tommy Rossman said.
As an organization that relies entirely on donations to fund its rescue efforts, City Dogs Rescue is grateful for the enthusiastic support of Stonewall Sports teams over the past several years.
To learn more about Stonewall Sports or to join a team, please visit their website or league registration pages:
City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties volunteers.