Heroes Welcome

Nonprofit provides kids with exercise,
entertainment and a little empowerment

By Jon Shoulders

As a youngster growing up in Arkansas, Quinton Moore didn’t have many opportunities to participate in the extracurricular activities that a lot of his peers enjoyed. His parents worked hard but often couldn’t afford the registration and equipment fees that are part and parcel of youth sports and clubs. This left Moore, a lifelong sports fan, frustrated and wishing there were other options for some fun, organized community activities.

“My parents did the best they could, but there were a lot of things that I just missed out on because of the expenses involved,” he recalls. “After I moved to Indiana, I started coaching basketball and tutoring kids. I thought that if I could ever create my own organization so kids wouldn’t have to feel what I felt — which was being left out — then that’s exactly what I would do.”

Two years ago, Moore, now a Greenwood resident, turned that strong conviction into a reality by founding Be Your Own Hero Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides local youths with free activities approximately once per month. Moore noticed a lack of free opportunities for youth-based activities in Johnson County and promptly set to work gathering volunteers, posting fliers and spreading the word via social media for what would become his inaugural BYOH event: a day of outdoor games and complimentary snacks at a park in his neighborhood.

Board members Haley Wade, David Stater, Sean Wall and founder, Quinton Moore

Board members Haley Wade, David Stater, Sean Wall and founder, Quinton Moore

“I decided to just organize the kids in my neighborhood and play games with them on a Saturday, and see what it would look like,” Moore says. “We had a blast doing it, and one Saturday turned into two Saturdays and then three. The next thing you know, some of my friends said we should just start our own organization since there’s evidently a need in the community for something like this.”

As a basketball coach, Moore says he came to notice that many kids simply get left out. It’s a feeling he knows well from his own younger years.

“They’re maybe not the most athletic or not the most academic or don’t have a ton of confidence. Where do those kids go?” he says. “There are programs around the state that offer activities, but there are families who can’t afford to get their kids involved.”

Moore and his three fellow board members typically meet quarterly to plan the following quarter’s BYOH events, which have included flag football, face painting, skating parties, outdoor movie nights, and outdoor game days with classics like ring toss and duck-duck-goose. True to Moore’s vision, all events are free of charge, with treats included.

“We’ve gotten some great volunteers for our activities, and we’re consistently looking for more,” says BYOH board member and Greenwood resident David Stater. “You don’t have to be a certain age to volunteer, and the age range of the kids who show up is loose, too. We’ve had 3- and 4-year-olds and teenagers.”

Wendy Cagle, a Greenwood resident who got wind of BYOH from a friend via Facebook, realized the organization’s skating party at Franklin Skate Club fell on her daughter Tabi’s 12th birthday. She gathered a group of Tabi’s friends, and they headed for the event. Cagle was pleasantly surprised by what she found.

“It was perfect for my daughter’s birthday, and they had cookies and cupcakes,” Cagle says. “Everybody was really nice, and the organizers had their Be Your Own Hero shirts, and that livened it up. Everyone gets some positive interaction with other people, and the kids can make friends and even have some good role models with the organizers there.”

By offering a diverse range of activities each month at no charge to participants, Cagle feels BYOH provides a much-needed filler of a community gap.

“We don’t have anything like it around here, where it’s free for the families and you can really have fun,” she says. “Up in Indy they have the Boys and Girls Club, but you might not be able to go all the way up there. We have the Community Center in Greenwood, and it has a lot going on, which is great, but again it can get expensive.”

Each BYOH event lasts between two and three hours. Moore typically chooses a one-word theme for each event. He makes sure to speak to the group about that word at some point throughout the day.

“It might be a word like ‘respect’ or ‘responsibility’ or ‘character.’ I talk to them about how we apply the word in our lives,” says Moore who, in addition to running BYOH, works full time at Church Brothers Collision Repair in Greenwood.

While the majority of monthly events have been largely funded by Moore and his board members, the group accepts donations through the official BYOH website and has managed to bring a few sponsors on board, including Coffey Connection on South Morgantown Road, which provided T-shirts for a recent event as well as a sponsorship sign.

Last year the Sertoma Club of Greenwood donated funds that helped Moore continue another important BYOH mission, that is, to provide underprivileged families with meals and groceries around Thanksgiving and toys at Christmas time.

“We hope to expand on the meal and toy donations and do that every year,” Stater says. “We also want to have our own permanent building eventually, so we can have a safe place where kids can go and have fun at our functions. It’s been a struggle getting funds together, but that’s something we’re definitely looking into.”

The concept of being your own hero isn’t directed solely at kids attending the events; Moore feels every person, regardless of age or circumstance, can take control of their own life. He hopes the message spreads to parents, teachers, coaches and local leaders throughout central Indiana.

“Everyone gets to make a choice of how they live their life,” he says. “Set your own goals because you get to dictate what you do; your mom or dad can direct you, but they can’t live your life out for you. So we try to impart responsibility for your own actions.”

Moore says the name of his organization also serves as a reminder to himself, his board members and the volunteers who help run each event to avoid complacency in the face of ongoing challenges.

“If we want to see a change in our neighborhoods, then we need to do it,” he says. “We need to be our own heroes to our city and our communities. The name also goes with the people who created this, not just the people we come in contact with.”

For more information on Be Your Own Hero Inc., including an events page and sponsorship details, visit beyourownheroinc.com.