One thing that is clear to anyone who’s spoken to, worked with, or heard about Ivan Leshinsky is his commitment to young people. During an interview with On the Record’s Sheilah Kast about his new memoir Teaming Up, Ivan got a chance to speak about his long career working with underserved youth. In his late twenties, Ivan found himself working for the Chesapeake Foundation for Human Development (what would later become the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development, where Ivan served as executive director for forty years) with young people who were not receiving appropriate educational services.
The Foundation served as a private institution where these young people could receive the services and help that they had not been party to. Ivan’s role was to serve as a recreational therapist, but he quickly learned that he played a larger role in the lives of the Foundation’s youth:
“I became a caring adult for kids that had emotional problems and learning disabilities, someone that could play ball and do recreational therapy with them.”
This experience had a deep impact on Ivan, and he kept it in mind as he continued this love of sport and community involvement into retirement after forty years with the CCYD, when he, along with some friends, neighbors, and colleagues decided to found the Southwest Sports and Fitness Alliance in 2017(?). The goal of the Alliance, he told Kast, is to bring more recreational opportunities to Southwest Baltimore where he lives.
“Having grown up in and benefitting tremendously from organized sports, [the Southwest Sports and Fitness Alliance]… wanted to do something to correct the situation for youth who didn’t have those kinds of opportunities through sport based youth development.”
These recreational and physical activity opportunities are critical for youth, Ivan told Kast, and provide a pathway for future “recreation, careers, or even excellence in sport.” Ivan, a lifelong Basketball player (check out his Wikipedia page!) along with everyone else at the Alliance, believes this: that sport and physical activity can become a lifelong passion, and open new doors for the youth of Southwest Baltimore.
To hear more about Ivan’s story, and his time in Baltimore (and about his memoir), listen to the interview with Sheilah Kast here.
If you’d like to learn more about the Alliance’s mission, or find out how you can help, click here to get started.
By: E.A. Stone