Play Ball: Stonewall Sports-Richmond
By, Charles Williams
“Interacting with new people in the LGBTQ community can be difficult, but [Stonewall Sports – Richmond] has given me an opportunity to meet some amazing people, [it’s been] an outlet that I’ve been missing in my life [and it’s provided] a family that’s welcoming and unwaveringly supportive,” notes Team Captain, Mina Recta. This isn’t a statement you hear much about an organized sports league, but it speaks to the heart of Stonewall Sports – Richmond.
Founded in Washington D.C. in 2010 and now located in 15 Cities across the U.S., Stonewall Sports is an LGBTQ & Ally community-based, non-profit sports organization providing an inclusive, low-cost and safe place to play recreation sports while raising funds for local non-profits.
Whether you’re an avid sports enthusiast or someone who hasn’t played since elementary school, Stonewall Sports is meant for anyone and everyone, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, age, ethnicity or religion. The Stonewall Sports vision states: “We believe every person should have the ability to feel comfortable being oneself in organized sports. Our league will value each player for who they are and what one brings to the leagues community. We also believe organized communities have the ability and responsibly to support others in need.” http://stonewallnational.flywheelsites.com/
Launched in August of 2017, Stonewall Sports – Richmond has become the fastest growing Stonewall League in its first year, jumping from 150 players in its inaugural season to over 300 in third season. Offering sports like kickball, dodgeball, volleyball, billiards and bowling, the competition sits as a backdrop to a greater cause: Connecting the community through fun and philanthropy. With local beneficiaries Health Brigade, Side-By-Side Richmond and Diversity Richmond, players are offered opportunities to raise money throughout the seasons and also given the chance to create those opportunities on their own.
League Treasurer, Dan Lutz, comments, “I get to play sports with amazing people and I get to support charitable organizations that help my community become a better place. I’m proud of our organization and I can’t wait to see how much we grow in the future.” Through silent auctions, yard sales, photo shoots and social events, the League has raised almost $20,000 in charitable donations for beneficiaries in only three seasons.
It’s worth noting that without community support, the League could not exist. In its first year, Stonewall Sports – Richmond received some incredible backing from local businesses, non-profits and corporations including Belle Isle Moonshine, Maymont, Virginia Pride, LYFT and Capital One. After the games are over each week, the entire League is invited to gather at a designated sponsor bar to celebrate the competition and get to know one another better. Throughout the season, teams are encouraged to visit sponsor locations and share their patronage via social media, thereby increasing the League’s and its sponsors’ visibility. Sponsors like New York Deli, Barcode, Babes and Nacho Mama’s provide a safe place for players to mingle off the playing fields, helping to strengthen relationships and connect the community even more.
Regardless of players joining the League as “free agents” or even with a team of friends, a key component to Stonewall Sports is connecting and uniting the community. The League brings people together from all walks of life, some of whom may never have met otherwise. According to Commissioner, Tommy Otterbine, “Stonewall Sports is one small way that helps bring a marginalized population of amazing people within our community that much closer together." As the seasons get underway, strangers form friendships and bonds unlike any other. Captain Joey Williams notes, “I am blown away by the incredible community that was around me, but I never knew existed. I’m so happy to feel like I have a place in the Richmond LGBTQ community and I have Stonewall Sports to thank for that.”
As small as Richmond may be, it sometimes may feel vast and scattered to the LGBTQ community. Joining Stonewall Sports – Richmond can not only help break down barriers and connect you to potentially great friends, it gets you involved in the community on a larger scale, giving back to organizations that do wonderfully impactful things in Richmond... all while having fun. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Registration is now open for “The Summer of Stonewall,” a tournament-style season of bocce, bowling, billiards and volleyball. Fall kickball is not far behind, with registration opening in late August.
For more information or to join an upcoming Season, visit: https://stonewallrichmond.leagueapps.com
Like the Facebook Page: facebook.com/stonewallsportsrichmond/
Join the Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/stonewallrichmond/
Follow on Instagram: instagram.com/rvastonewallsports
Charles Williams is an Inaugural Board Member and Sponsorship Director of Stonewall Sports – Richmond.