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Daycia Clarke (Submitted photo)
Daycia Clarke (Submitted photo)

Project Play Western New York announces leadership transition

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Mon, May 31st 2021 07:00 am

Daycia Clarke named director of youth sports initiatives at Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo 

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced Daycia Clarke will be the new director of youth sports initiatives at the Community Foundation and will oversee the work of Project Play Western New York moving forward. Clarke will build on the work of Bridget Niland who was hired in 2018 to launch this initiative and has accepted a new leadership opportunity in the region. Clarke joined the Project Play WNY team in January as associate director.

Set in motion by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation in 2018, Project Play WNY was born out of State of Play, an extensive regional research initiative that provided insight into children, their activity levels, and how the organization can make a difference for them. A key area of focus for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is ensuring people of all ages have access to public spaces in their community that encourage and welcome active lifestyles to create a healthier region.

A press release stated, “Since launching, the Project Play WNY team – including 300 cross-sector partners – has worked tirelessly to advance the mission of engaging our youth in sports. Under the strategic direction of an advisory council and with input from more than 1,000 community members, Project Play WNY has created four working groups focusing on different key goals of the organization: reintroduce free play, encourage sport sampling, train all coaches and capacity building for WNY youth sports organizations. Project Play WNY has also built out a robust communication network through its website and social media platforms to provide targeted resources to different audiences looking to inspire kids to be active and engaged in sports.

“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Play WNY moved quickly with its partners to put together play packs and work with the schools to encourage kids to stay active while they were learning from home.”

Clarke comes to the Community Foundation after spending three years at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County where she led the Western New York Girls in Sports initiative. Beyond advocating for key issues impacting girls and sports, she developed new partnerships and strengthened existing relationships with cross-sector partners. Since 2019, Clarke has been a member of the Project Play WNY sports sampling working group and provided guidance on youth voice and engagement. She previously served as assistant director of the Upward Bound program at Medaille College. Clarke is a graduate of Canisius College where she earned her B.A. in English with a minor in secondary education.

“Daycia Clarke is the right leader to guide Project Play WNY into its next chapter. She is an energetic community builder with a deep passion for youth sports and we are excited to see her build on the vision of a Western New York where all children have the opportunity to be active through sports,” said Betsy Constantine, executive vice president, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. “We are grateful for Bridget Niland’s foundational leadership to engage the community in new ways, while building the Project Play WNY brand, and her vision to bring Daycia on board to move the initiative forward.”

Jim Boyle, vice president of programs and communications for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, said, “We are incredibly grateful for the guidance and leadership Bridget Niland provided to our team at the Wilson Foundation and the Western New York Region as we engaged and rallied our community around getting more kids active through sport. Daycia Clarke has been an involved champion for the Project Play initiative from the very beginning, so we are thrilled to see Bridget ‘pass the baton’ to her to lead us into the next phase and growth of this collaborative work.”

Clarke said, “Participating in youth sports had a profound impact on the trajectory of my life and I know firsthand how critical participating in sports is for adolescent development. I have been honored to be a partner in the work of Project Play over the years and I have been impressed at how the collaborative work has already created positive ripple effects in our community. As we start to move forward from the pandemic, the time is now to accelerate our efforts to work together to ensure all young people in Western New York have the opportunity to be active through sport.”

Niland said, “It has been an honor to lead Project Play for three years and see through the vision of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to make sports more accessible for youth in Western New York – and beyond. I have worked with so many passionate advocates of youth sports who not only inspire our work, but make it possible. I’m excited to see how Project Play WNY evolves under Daycia’s leadership and look forward to staying engaged in the work.” 

Project Play WNY is driven and funded by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s youth sports and recreation focus area in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. It is a collective impact model that includes 87 individuals who are focused on ensuring all WNY kids have the opportunity to be active through sport. For more information, visit projectplaywny.org

For more than a century, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has enhanced and encouraged long-term philanthropy in the Western New York community. A 501 (c)(3) organization, the Community Foundation’s mission is: Connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York. Established in 1919, the Community Foundation has made the most of the generosity of individuals, families, foundations and organizations who entrust charitable assets to the Community Foundation’s care. Learn more at cfgb.org.

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Wilson requested a significant share of his estate be used to continue a lifelong generosity of spirit by funding the foundation that bears his name. The foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires Jan. 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Wilson’s desire for the foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information, visit www.rcwjrf.org.

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