M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

One mark of a vibrant community is having opportunities for play. Sports and recreational activities can improve the cognitive, social, and emotional wellbeing of children and youth. They can provide a chance to practice being on a team, develop confidence, increase physical strength, discover skills, and spark passions. Experts agree that play is an important part of any healthy childhood.  

Yet across our region, differences in climate, geography, and economy mean that some communities can offer more recreational activities than others. It is often harder for those in rural areas to enter sports leagues or find safe indoor spaces to train. While families in these areas typically find creative alternate ways to engage in play, it benefits children and families when there are more recreational opportunities on offer.  

While we celebrate all organizations creating space for communities to engage in recreation across our region, today we want to highlight four nonprofits providing these vital services to those in Alaska: 

Group of male teenage hockey players on ice
Kodiak Hockey League

Kodiak Hockey League supports a lively and successful sports community in the coastal town of Kodiak, AK. Girls and boys’ teams regularly bring back state championships in swimming, cross-country, basketball, hockey, track, and softball. Kodiak’s ice rink and recreation center, however, has historically had a roof overhead with open walls, which makes training and practice difficult in winter storms. To create safer training conditions, welcome more visitors of all ages year-round, and introduce new offerings such as an indoor walking track, Kodiak Hockey League is undergoing a facility renovation project. The Trust has been honored to play a small part in this, and we are thrilled to see the fruit that will come from year-round recreational opportunities on Kodiak Island.  

Gamers Sports Travel began as a program offering positive mentoring and exposure through baseball and softball for children in Anchorage. Recognizing that many youths in Alaska are restricted from organized sports by climate, geography, and socio-economic factors, Gamers Sports Travel seeks to give all Alaskan youth a chance to participate in baseball and softball. A new facility construction in a northeast neighborhood of Anchorage will address some access and transportation challenges, and free programming and scholarships will aid in making these offerings economically accessible to all families. The Trust was pleased to support the construction of this facility in 2023.  

3 groups of adults playing pickleball on an indoor court
South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Committee Pickleball Court

South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Committee (SPARC) aims to promote a healthy community through play in the small coastal town of Homer, AK. SPARC does this primarily through a fitness and recreational sports facility that was built in 2016-17 by a local youth soccer club and community efforts. This facility has been a hub of sports and fun ever since, offering space for indoor soccer, pickleball, basketball, ultimate frisbee, baseball, badminton, roller skating, and more. SPARC has also collaborated with a local hospital to offer wellness programs and hosted traveling circus performers, birthday parties, and dances with live bands, truly becoming a community center that ignites energy and engagement in its visitors. The Trust was honored to support the initial construction of this facility in 2017 and floor replacements in 2023. 

Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) helps create safe trails for recreation to happen outdoors during Alaska’s long winters. Skiing has been an important part of Anchorage’s story for more than 100 years, when the first ski jump was built by railroad workers in 1910. Today, NSAA maintains and sustains the countless miles of off-trail skiing adventures and facilities around Anchorage and leads a wide range of programming that creates community around skiing. The Trust was grateful to support NSAA’s ski jumping program – the only one in the Pacific Northwest – through contributing to building improvement costs.  

To each organization who is working to enable those of all ages in Alaska to engage in safe and character-building recreation year-round, we say thank you! You remind us all that a vibrant community is one that plays – no matter the weather.

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