BEND, Ore. - On Dec. 14, 2012 -- tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when 20 kids and six adults were shot and killed.
Six-year-old Jack Pinto was one of them.
"It's helpful for us to remember that not just bad things happen, there's plenty of people out there that do good things," said Jack's father, Dean Pinto.
Now, almost one year after their son was taken, Tricia and Dean Pinto are honoring Jack in the best way they know how: through his love of sports.
"They actually found us back in June," said Natalie Hummel, director of Kids in the Game, a Bend-based non-profit providing underprivileged children with financial help to play sports.
"I got an email one day from Tricia Pinto, just giving us a little bit of background. And having a 6-year-old son myself, I broke into tears just reading the email," Hummel said Wednesday.
After months of planning, the Pintos and Kids in the Game are honoring Jack by launching a national awareness and fundraising campaign.
"There's so many stories of how he stood above other people, not just with his athleticism but with his compassion for other people," Hummel said. "And that's why they were so compelled to do something to help other kids, because that was Jack's nature."
To kick off the campaign, the Pintos pledged a donation to the organization in Jack's honor.
While the organization has not revealed the amount, they do say it's the largest single donation in the history of Kids in the Game.
"I believe in the core of my heart that every kid who wants to play sports, gets the chance to play sports," Hummel said. "And today, 62 percent of kids don't play -- and the No. 1reason is, they can't afford it."
Now, thanks to the Pintos' donation, 400 kids can make it to the playing field.
Tricia Pinto said, "The mission statement and what Kids in the Game does, what they strive to do and what they're passionate about doing is completely 100 percent in line with who Jack was, and it just felt right to us."
The donation will allow children across the country to keep Jack's spirit alive through sports.
"More than anything, its so meaningful to get the chance to do something positive from something that was so tragic," Hummel said.
Here's the news release, issued Wednesday morning:
To honor the short, but inspiring life of Jack Pinto, who lost his life in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown CT, the non-profit organization KIDS in the GAME announced Wednesday it has been selected by Jack's parents to join them in honoring their son and launch a national awareness and fundraising campaign.
This national initiative is aptly named "Jack Pinto . . . Getting Kids in the Game" and is dedicated to providing underprivileged children across America with the resources they need to get in the game and thrive in life through sports.
To kick off the campaign, the Pinto family has pledged a donation to KITG from the Jack A. Pinto Charitable Gift Fund, created by Jack's family in the wake of his tragic death on December 14, 2012. The donation will enable more than 400 children around the country to enjoy the same opportunity to play sports that Jack had.
"Jack was a sweet, loving and active 6-year-old boy who enjoyed playing all kinds of sports, but most of all loved having fun and being with other kids," said Jack's parents, Dean and Tricia Pinto. "The KIDS in the GAME team is doing incredible work and it felt natural for us to partner with them to honor Jack's memory and his love of play through their organization. It is our hope that others will consider giving in Jack's honor to celebrate his love of sports and play, and help give underprivileged kids across this country an opportunity to enjoy team sports like he did."
For over three years, KITG has worked to provide financial assistance to under-served youth from low-income families who cannot afford the increasing costs of playing sports.
"We were contacted by Jack's parents looking for a way to honor their son's love for sports," explained Natalie Hummel, executive director and co-founder of KITG. "We have been truly blessed by the Pinto's passion for our mission. They understand how influential sports can be in a child's development; to learn life lessons, be healthy and have fun – both on and off the field."
The first official sporting event of the initiative was held recently in Los Angeles with Southern California Falcons Youth Football. The program renamed their annual championship event the "Jack Pinto Bowl."
The games featured the top teams of kids aged six-to-seven from four different leagues in Los Angeles, and took place at Jackie Robinson Stadium. There was a moving moment of silence honoring Jack Pinto, and each youth player received a commemorative medal honoring Jack.
Keith Johnson, President of Southern California Falcons stated, "We are honored to join the Pinto Family and KIDS in the GAME to help turn this tragic event from a point of pain to one of empowerment and giving back."
In addition, Tricia and Dean Pinto have provided a special video message to encourage support of this initiative, which can be found at http://www.kidsinthegame.org/jackpinto.
Contributions can be made in honor of Jack by visiting the "Jack Pinto . . . Getting Kids in the Game" donation page at: http://www.kidsinthegame.org/jackpinto.
About KIDS in the GAME
KIDS In The GAME is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on inspiring kids to thrive in life through sports. KITG is working to fill a gap in the lack of access to sports and exercise an average child in America is experiencing. 70% of kids drop out of playing sports by the age of 12. 62% of American youth ages 9 to 13 do not participate in any organized physical activity during non-school hours primarily because of financial constraints. We provide financial assistance to help youth from low-income families, youth that are physically or mentally challenged, and kids that are "at-risk" gain access to youth sports organization and school athletic programs. We raise awareness of the importance of athletics in developing future leaders, with skills and values that transfer from the sports field into the classroom, workplace, family and community. Find out more at www.kidsinthegame.org, visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kidsinthegame and follow us on Twitter @kidsinthegame.