K.C. Danzansky, Hattie Priem and Josie Tober
October 2023 – For many student athletes and their families, enthusiasm for organized sports is tempered by sticker shock. Football cleats and shoulder pads, quality baseball bats and even la crosse sticks can each come with price tags exceeding $200. Equipment averages for hockey and other winter sports are higher still. Hefty (and rising) costs like these can bench young athletes before they ever take the field, court or ice.
It's a national issue with local resonance. One in five Edina Public Schools students, or approximately 1,700 youth, come from families facing a level of financial difficulty likely to impact their ability to participate in extracurricular activities.
Over the last decade, a school-aligned nonprofit called Edina Give and Go has made great strides in leveling this playing field.
Edina Give and Go provides eligible students with financial grants to cover registration fees associated with myriad academic, athletic and art opportunities available in our community. During the 2022-2023 fiscal year alone, the organization and its donors helped 528 students unlock more than 1,300 opportunities – financial aid topping $250,000.
As exciting as that is, long-time board member K.C. Danzansky knows that this type of assistance has limits. “Funding the actual opportunities is only part of the equation. Expensive equipment is an incredibly high barrier as well.”
“We also know from our own experience [as parents] that kids outgrow their gear incredibly quickly and that many pricey items end up in landfills,” she continued.
Danzansky and former Executive Director Maggie McCracken brainstormed around this conundrum and devised an ingenious solution: the Edina Give and Go Gear Swap.
As the name suggests, the now-annual Gear Swap is an opportunity for area families both to donate unwanted sports equipment and to pick up needed items at low or no cost. While simple enough in principle, bringing that vision to life proved a herculean effort.
Danzansky is quick to deflect most of the credit. “Hattie Priem and Josie Tober were really the backbone of the dream team that helped figure out how to make it all happen,” she said. Tober is responsible for marketing and pre-event set-up logistics. Priem coordinates Edina Give and Go’s small army of day-of volunteers.
This trio is the core of approximately 70 people who come together each fall to make the Gear Swap possible. “It really does take a village, because this event happens entirely over one weekend,” Danzansky continued.
Day 1, a Saturday, is focused on accepting and organizing gently used merchandise. In addition to sports equipment ranging from helmets and shin guards to hockey sticks and skates, Gear Swap also accepts in-demand items unrelated to team sports. These include music books and choral concert outfits, tap shoes and ballet leotards, and even graphing calculators.
The Edina Community Center serves as the nerve center of the Gear Swap. “We station people outside to take donations from cars and bring them to the gym for sorting by sport. Once at the right station, we label shoe, skate and cleat sizes, clean items if [necessary] … and organize as best we can to make for an easier shopping experience.”
Danzansky, Priem and Tober are no less busy on Day 2, which is devoted to shoppers. “We need volunteers welcoming the crowds, handing out bags, rearranging the gear as people browse, getting liability waivers signed,” and much more, Danzansky said.
“We have people in line at 8 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. opening. By the time we open the doors, the line stretches from the Edina Community Center large gym, down the sidewalk and to the [far end of] Southview Middle School!”
Once the two-day Gear Swap concludes, another volunteer crew sorts through leftover inventory and makes alternate plans to keep as many items as possible in circulation – and out of landfills.
Amidst this hustle and bustle, Danzansky, Priem and Tober encourage their volunteers to stop and appreciate the real impact they are having. During the 2023 sale, held Sept. 9-10, an astounding 289 families came forward to donate gear and another 321 came to shop.
Courtesy of at-will monetary donations, the Gear Swap also routinely raises $10,000-$15,000 to support Edina Give and Go’s mission year-round.
“It’s really gratifying to see this event continue to gain momentum each year,” Danzansky reflected. We are at a point now where people are donating back items that they got from Gear Swap in past years – giving items a second, third and even a fourth life.”