Students volunteer in trade for athletic fees from Upper Keys Foundation

The Upper Keys Foundation started a circular giving mission in the Upper Keys community, and it is all starting with the student athletes. The non-profit started a system that is moving student athletic participation from a “pay to play” to a “serve to play” philosophy.

“It is a pretty cool program because we get to interact with the people in the community and give back,” said Dylan Kling, a sophomore varsity basketball player at Coral Shores High School. “It’s taught me discipline, respect for others and responsibility.”

The concept is simple. Student athletes volunteer in the community instead of washing cars or selling cupcakes. Then, community members and alumni buy “shares” to pay for the volunteer work. (The charities on the receiving end of the good  do not pay for the students’ time.)

“This pays for away games, referees, and equipment, in a great team building experience for the students,” said Coral Shores’ Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Alena McNew. “Students learn and experience far more about life by volunteering in a soup kitchen, assisting special needs children, and performing beach clean-ups than they do from hosting a car wash.”

Based on the budget, there are five seasons of the program and each volunteer hour the students contribute equals $25 for their program. The football and cheerleading teams will be volunteering over the summer to raise money for their 2015-16 season.

“Some sports only need five hours per athlete,” McNew said. “Some need 20.”

Last year, Coral Shores athletes contributed more than 5,500 hours to 23 different local groups with service needs, including Habitat for Humanity, Everglades Foundation, MARC Foundation, ICE, and more.

“We allow our student-athletes to experience the fulfillment that comes from serving others in the belief that many of them will become lifetime givers,” said McNew.

Coral Shores Athletic Director Rich Russell said Coral Shores is forever indebted to those who are supporting the Upper Keys Foundation.

“We believe we are the first public high school in the country to introduce this type of circular giving,” he said. “It’s very gratifying and validating to hear the comments of our coaches and student athletes who have been serving individuals and organizations with genuine needs. They have discovered the two-way blessings associated with helping others. I truly believe we are tutoring the next generation of public servants.”

The Upper Keys Foundation is looking for “share” holders, who will sponsor students by buying into the plan. For questions or more information, the website is, or contact Executive Director Ed Holly at 786-423-2289 or email [email protected].

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