Wilton Youth Sports and sports foundation merge for a unified vision

WILTON — A number of youth athletic groups are merging to create a unified voice that they believe will contribute to their shared goals regarding youth athletics and streamline their efforts with the city.

The Wilton Athletic and Recreation Foundation will merge with the Wilton Youth Sports Coalition, which already includes several youth leagues. WARF also offered to contribute $60,000 to fund the city’s feasibility studies for greater availability of grass pitches.

“We decided that the best way forward was to merge all of this into one effort with an expanded focus and an expanded Board of Directors,” WARF President JR Sherman told elected officials at a recent meeting. “This group would come together for the purpose of, again, collaboration and communication, and most importantly, a unified list of priorities that we could work with the city to help move forward.”

A planned merger date has not been announced, although Sherman said the coalition and the foundation have been in discussions for the past several weeks.

WARF started in 2018 and has played a central role in fundraising for youth sports since then, although members like Sherman have been fundraising for longer.

The Youth Sports Coalition was launched earlier this year when leaders from various sports and recreation leagues came together and proposed a public-private partnership with the city on the future of infrastructure planning. Chandra Ring, president of Wilton’s youth field hockey program, told Parks and Recreation earlier this year that conversations started after many of the city’s fields, namely Wilton High School Stadium and the Lilly Field, following the effects of a strong storm that swept across the North East in 2021.

Sherman said the goal of this new merger is to meet the needs of all youth sports leagues and groups. The coalition has six youth sports organizations so far: Wilton Youth Football and Cheer, Wilton Youth Field Hockey, Wilton Soccer Association, Wilton Youth Softball, Wilton Baseball/Softball Association and Wilton Youth Lacrosse.

All parties need to collaborate, Sherman said, particularly around availability, needs and upgrades to facilities and grounds.

“If baseball comes in and asks Parks and Recreation for that, and football needs that and Lacrosse wants to add that, it’s very difficult for the city to deal with that,” Sherman explained. “Inevitably, not out of malice, what usually ends up happening is nothing, because there are too many voices with too many demands.”

Sherman also referenced Wilton Schools’ new athletic director, Bobby Rushton, who has experience in youth sports, having served as president of the New Canaan Athletic Foundation. Sherman said he brings “a massive amount of expertise” and excitement he hasn’t seen since the late beloved Nick Zeoli.

First female draft pick Lynne Vanderslice praised WARF’s previous fundraising efforts by hanging banners for local businesses at the high school’s Wilton Veterans Memorial Stadium. This money will now be used to finance the feasibility study. Vanderslice called it a true “partnership with the city” because WARF had raised funds using a city asset: the stadium.

“This money is really designed to offset the city’s spending on these facilities and beyond for turfs,” Sherman said. He said if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, that total to be returned to the city would have been higher.

Allen’s Meadow Fields has been tapped as a potential landing spot for an additional turf field, but an equipment master plan backed by breeders will be tasked with securing a location later this year.

Previous OPEC crude basket up $1.26 to $112.35 Pb
Next Envoy hopes talks on Taiwan-U.S. trade initiative can start in July