Rays and Starting Right, Now teaming up to help local youth

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Take a look at how the Tampa Bay Rays and local non-profit Starting Right, Now are working to help homeless youth in the community.

MATT SILVERMAN: This is a homegrown organization. It started, basically, in the garage of a cousin of mine, Vicki Sokolik and Joel Sokolik, who live in Tampa Palms. They were helping kids sort of on their own. Back then, Mayor Iorio challenged them to build a program. And so together, we built out a program to help a large number of kids-- it's not just about one, but now we help hundreds of kids graduate high school. I've been the chairman of the organization going back almost a decade since we started it.

We take homeless high school kids, and we give them a home. We give them a mentor. We give them everything they need to graduate high school and move on to the next stage of their life. These kids are resilient. These kids have overcome terrible situations, and they deserve a chance to succeed. And this program gives them that. It's the support that they may not have received. It's the family they may not have had.

Together, we help these kids thrive. The whole Rays organization has helped financially and also to help volunteer. The Rays have given this organization credibility to go out and meet with donors, to meet with community partners, and to be able to grow faster than it would have without the endorsement and the support of the Rays.

Community service, dedication to our community is a hallmark of the organization. And we do it on a big scale, but we also do it when we help these individual kids. And starting right now, we're helping one kid at a time. So there are some programs where we're benefiting hundreds, thousands of kids. And with starting right now, it may be dozens, but the impact is incredible.

We have a house in Pinellas, a residence in Pinellas. We have one in Hillsborough that's been operating for several years. This is a growing organization, but one that started right here in our own backyard. I'm proud to have been a part of it since the very beginning. And it has a chance to be something that we could take statewide and possibly across the nation as we continue to grow this.

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