Before he was the principal of Gulfside Elementary School, Chris Clayton was a student — one who loved sports.
"Playing sports was such a big part of my childhood, and I couldn't imagine growing up without it," Clayton said.
He always wanted to share his love for sports with students, though the cost and location of many youth sports programs made this wish seem like a distant dream.
"My students just didn't have access," he said.
But now comes the realization of Clayton's dream, with the formation of the One Community Now sports league.
Approved this week by the School Board, the league marks a collaboration between Gulfside Elementary School, Paul R. Smith Middle School, Anclote High School and Generations Christian Church, kicking off with a season of soccer before expanding to other sports. The program is being underwritten by Hyundai of New Port Richey under the leadership of CEO Scott Fink and will be overseen by athletic director Leah Ritchey, a Trinity-based YMCA instructor.
"Every team gets a trophy," said Patti Templeton, outreach minister at Generations Christian Church. "Every child gets a trophy."
Through its One Community Now program, a 501(c)3, church volunteers have developed a longstanding relationship with Gulfside Elementary School, giving donations of time, food and clothing to students in need.
"When we surveyed the students' families and asked them about their needs, they said they wanted more things for the children to do," said Templeton. "We wanted the kids to play a sport, and we wanted to get parents involved."
The One Community Now sports league will also offer lessons in character as well as biblical study.
"This is about character building," said Matthew Pratt, an Anclote High coach and member of the One Community Now committee. "This is about getting these students involved in something."