Minnesota Twins Community Fund named 2024 Project Play Champion by the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program

Annual program honors national organizations for taking meaningful action for youth sports; MTCF celebrated for its innovative and industry-leading adaptive youth sports programs

May 13th, 2024

For images of the Minnesota Twins Community Fund’s adaptive programs, please contact Matt Hodson at [email protected]

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Twins Community Fund (MTCF), long a proponent of empowering the full potential of our youth, was honored today as a 2024 Project Play Champion by the globally-renowned Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. The MTCF is being specifically recognized for its innovative and industry-leading adaptive youth sports programs, driven by a belief that every child deserves access and resources to play the games they love.

“We firmly believe that youth sports – especially baseball and softball – change lives for the better, and that when we inspire a love of play for all, everyone wins,” said Kristin Rortvedt, executive director of the Minnesota Twins Community Fund. “This ethos drives us each and every day as we challenge barriers that keep kids from participating and take bold steps toward a more inclusive sports landscape in our region. We are excited that the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program is honoring our work, we are beyond grateful to our partners who share in our efforts, and we look forward to ensuring that kids of all abilities can play our beloved diamond sports.”

Launched in 2013, the Project Play initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program is a multi-stage effort to build Sport for All, Play for Life communities that foster a culture of health. Project Play Champions are recognized for their commitment to innovative partnerships, commitment to quality coaching, exposure to new sports, and increasing opportunities for underrepresented youth. Champions are also aligned with Project Play’s “Eight Plays,” strategies to enhance accessibility and improve quality in youth sports.

The MTCF’s partnership-driven model – using Twins staff and instructors for adaptive clinics, and working with nonprofit partners like Deaf Equity, Special Olympics Minnesota, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and NubAbility to ensure accessibility – is unique across Major League Baseball, placing a focus on the needs and wants of the communities themselves. This pioneering approach in which programming is tailored to meet the needs of individual athletes empowers each child and instills a belief that everyone can play, allowing the MTCF to deliver the same quality and fun found across all of its clinics and youth programming.

The Minnesota Twins Community Fund, along with the entire 19-organization cohort of 2024 Project Play Champions, will be recognized at this week’s 11th annual Project Play Summit, the nation’s premier gathering of leaders at the intersection of youth, sport and health. Set for tomorrow and Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland, a livestream of Project Play Summit 2024 is available at projectplay.org/summit-2024.

More information on the MTCF’s transformative programming can be found below.

Minnesota Twins Community Fund Commitment to Adaptive Programming

From May 2023 through April 2024 (the Aspen Institute judging period), the Minnesota Twins Community Fund leveraged a collection of new partnerships, events and donations to create new adaptive youth sports programs and enhance existing ones, all aimed at ensuring that every child has the access, equipment and individualized instruction needed to play baseball and softball and develop their skills in a positive environment. Specifically, the MTCF:

  • Provided funding for two new Miracle League fields in Minnesota and worked with six additional nonprofit partners across Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa to donate 57 sport wheelchairs.
  • Expanded longstanding partnerships with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Special Olympics Minnesota and NubAbility, among others. The annual Twins-Courage Kenny adaptive wheelchair softball clinic was amplified to feature a robust experience complete with major league instruction from a Twins pitcher and coach, as well as personalized jerseys for each youth participant. The Twins-NubAbility partnership resulted in clinics for limb-different youth in both Florida and Minnesota.
  • Cultivated new partnerships to help better serve athletes of all abilities, including a collaborative relationship with Deaf Equity to provide a baseball clinic for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing youth, staffed with ASL interpreters alongside Twins instructors at each instructional station. Additionally, a new relationship with the Minnesota Millers Beep Ball team led to the development of a Beep Ball clinic for blind and low-vision youth during the upcoming Major League Baseball PLAY BALL Weekend 2024.

During this year’s MLB-wide PLAY BALL Weekend, set for June 14-16, the MTCF is putting a special emphasis on adaptive opportunities, including an adaptive wheelchair softball clinic with the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (June 14); a deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing baseball clinic with DeafEquity (June 15); and the MTCF’s first-ever Beep Ball clinic for blind and low-vision youth with the Minnesota Millers Beep Ball team (June 15).

Minnesota Twins Community Fund Alignment with Project Play’s “Eight Plays”

Beyond meaningful action achieved solely in the past 12 months, the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program is also lauding the Minnesota Twins Community Fund for upholding Project Play’s “Eight Plays,“ its research-driven model to achieve a goal that every 12-year-old has the ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life. Specifically, the MTCF has modeled:

  • “Design for Development” – MTCF youth programming meets participants where they are, with coaching tailored to participants’ exposure to the game, developmental stage and individual abilities. Trained MTCF clinicians teach fundamentals in a fun atmosphere, while annual MTCF-hosted coaches’ clinics equip youth coaches across the region with instruction and inspiration to guide young athletes in their development.
  • “Revitalize In-Town Leagues” – The MTCF provides more than $800,000 annually in grant funding for community baseball and softball teams and leagues to ensure every kid has safe facilities, equipment and quality coaching. The MTCF also offers towns across six states the opportunity to host free youth clinics.

About the Minnesota Twins Community Fund

Established in 1991, the Minnesota Twins Community Fund’s mission is to enrich local and regional communities by providing resources for the healthy development of children and families through an association with baseball, softball and the Minnesota Twins. Since its inception, the Fund has invested more than $22 million to support and empower youth in Twins Territory through programs, grantmaking and partnerships. The Minnesota Twins Community Fund is governed by a board of directors representing communities across Twins Territory. For more information about Minnesota Twins Community Fund grants and programs, please visit twinscommunityfund.org.

About Project Play

An initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, Project Play develops, shares and mobilizes knowledge that helps build healthy communities through sports. For more information, please visit projectplay.org.

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. For more information, please visit aspeninstitute.org.