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Back on Track: East Palestine School District Receives 75for75 Sports Matter Grant

By Hilary Totin

Back on Track: East Palestine School District Receives 75for75 Sports Matter Grant

By Hilary Totin

Published 10-24-23

Submitted by DICK'S Sporting Goods

Originally published on DICK'S Sporting Goods Sideline Report

“We became little Chernobyl.”

That’s how residents in the small community of East Palestine, Ohio felt following the February 2023 freight train derailment that spewed hazardous chemicals into the air. The derailment impacted all aspects of life in East Palestine, including school sports.

The weekend after the derailment, the East Palestine School District was scheduled to host a playoff game for its girls’ high school basketball team, but the opposing team decided to forfeit instead of travel to East Palestine.

“We got tagged as Toxic Town U.S.A.,” said Dwayne Pavkovich, assistant principal and athletic director at East Palestine High School. “People didn’t want to come here.”

The ongoing concerns about air quality and water safety doomed spring sporting events. East Palestine’s annual track invitationals had a 50% drop in participation; all volleyball, basketball and wrestling tournaments were canceled. The lost revenue from ticket sales, concessions and 50/50 raffles put the athletic department’s budget down $70,000.

Pavkovich knew if the school couldn’t find a way to come up with the money, some sports teams would not be able to play in the 2023-2024 school year. He reached out to DICK’S Sporting Goods for help. Pavkovich said he was hoping for $10,000, but Community Marketing Manager Jim Famularo knew their need was greater.

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Signs of support for East Palestine throughout the community.

“There was a chance these student athletes would have another sports season canceled due to something far out of their control,” said Famularo. “We saw an opportunity to support these kids and make sure they could play.”

“The student athletes and coaches of East Palestine were resilient and determined to not be victims of the catastrophe that happened in their backyard,” said Director of Sports Matter and Community Relations Kristen Garmey. “The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation wanted to help these athletes thrive.”

During a school pep assembly on Sept. 15, the East Palestine Athletic Department was presented with a 75for75 Sports Matter Grant.

“You guys stepped up for our kids,” Pavkovich said.

The $75,000 helped ensure all of East Palestine’s fall sports went on as normal, something Pavkovich said is vital for the entire community.

“Sports is a fundamental part of East Palestine’s DNA,” Pavkovich said. “We’re gaining momentum and things are going in the right direction again.”

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East Palestine volleyball players read letter announcing 75for75 Sports Matter Grant during school pep assembly.


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East Palestine High School football players practicing for game day.


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DICK'S Sporting Goods

Founded in 1948, DICK'S Sporting Goods is a leading omni-channel sporting goods retailer offering an extensive assortment of authentic, high-quality sports equipment, apparel, footwear and accessories. As of October 30, 2021, the Company operated 734 DICK'S Sporting Goods locations across the United States, serving and inspiring athletes and outdoor enthusiasts to achieve their personal best through a combination of its dedicated teammates, in-store services and unique specialty shop-in-shops dedicated to Team Sports, Athletic Apparel, Golf, Outdoor, Fitness and Footwear.

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, DICK'S also owns and operates Golf Galaxy, Field & Stream and Public Lands specialty stores, as well as GameChanger, a youth sports mobile app for scheduling, communications, live scorekeeping and video streaming. DICK'S offers its products through a dynamic eCommerce platform that is integrated with its store network and provides athletes with the convenience and expertise of a 24-hour storefront.

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