Bennington Sports Foundation (BSF) provides funding and support for Southern Vermont’s young athletes


In the beautiful shires of Southern Vermont, Bennington Sports Foundation (BSF) has emerged as an impactful community organization dedicated to nurturing the potential of Bennington County’s young athletes. With a mission deeply-rooted in fostering positive life skills, building resilience and leadership, and facilitating athletic education, BSF serves as a catalyst for growth and community empowerment through sports.

In 2022, a group of passionate Bennington County residents banded together to form BSF. The original founders aimed to provide local children with the opportunity to pursue their athletic aspirations, bridging the gaps that were preventing them from participating in sports programs. The shared efforts of BSF’s founding Co-Chairs, Jeannie Jenkins and Deborah Larkin, were enhanced by their partnership with Carolyn Blitz, who played a pivotal role in the organization’s early development. Drawing on the experience gained through Blitz’s years working as an executive for the NBA, Larkin’s longstanding leadership role with the Women’s Sports Foundation, and Jenkins’ vast experience with Bennington-based organizations and governance, the three of them developed a targeted program that would help community youth sports organizations in Bennington provide financial support to children in need. “We knew that there was a niche we could fill,” says Jenkins. “By working directly with community organizations to provide funding, we could make sure that children who wanted to actively participate in athletics could find the necessary financial resources.”

BSF was built around the philosophy that youth sports programs offer much more than physical activity; they provide a pathway to personal development and community engagement. “Through sports, children learn the value of teamwork and leadership,” says Larkin. “They develop a sense of belonging and they form friendships and connections. It doesn’t just benefit individual children—it strengthens their families and the whole community, as well.” Larkin adds that engaging in sports improves both physical and mental health. “Children learn to work hard, overcome challenges, and celebrate victories as a team. When you’re playing sports, you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and it’s easier to build positive habits and connections. Children who feel supported and valued are more likely to grow up to become hard-working adults who are able to contribute and participate in their community.”

BSF strives to ensure that Bennington County’s underserved children have access to these transformative experiences, and their programs directly work towards actualizing that goal. To that end, BSF provides financial assistance to partner organizations that offer sports programs to children throughout Bennington County, including the YMCA, the Bike Hub, Battle of the Future Basketball and other local organizations. BSF offers financial support of up to $7,500 per organization per year for potential participants or counselors. These funds can be allocated toward various needs, including transportation, equipment, athletic apparel, other essentials required for participation, and stipends for teens to take on leadership roles within the organization. “We want to encourage youth leadership among participants,” says Larkin. “If a participant comes back as a counselor or junior coach, they can pass on what they’ve learned to younger children and learn valuable leadership skills in the process.”

Participating partner organizations are responsible for identifying eligible children and submitting grant applications to BSF on their behalf. While BSF does not dictate rigid or specific criteria for selecting participants, it encourages organizations to prioritize children facing significant financial or logistical barriers. As Larkin explains, “It’s up to them to identify the kids, but we will also help them through that process.” BSF encourages partner organizations to reapply for grants on an ongoing basis, fostering long-term engagement and sustained support for participants. This process allows children to continue benefiting from sports programs over multiple years. Once grants are awarded, BSF disburses funds directly to partner organizations, enabling them to allocate resources according to the needs of individual participants. This decentralized approach ensures flexibility and responsiveness to the diverse needs of children and families across Bennington County.

Led by a dedicated board of directors, including Co-Chairs Jeannie Jenkins and Deborah Larkin, BSF operates as a cohesive unit. Each board member uses their unique skillset to contribute to the organization’s growth and development. As a longtime Southern Vermont resident and active fundraiser, Angela Bevin brings invaluable local knowledge and strong networking skills to the Foundation. Bevin’s love for sports, including tennis and skiing, underscores her commitment to promoting youth development through recreation. John Caswell’s roots in Bennington and dedication to youth sports advocacy and community wellness shine through in his roles as a pharmacist at SVMC and a volunteer coach. Drawing on his personal and professional experience, Caswell offers insights into the intersection of health, education, and athletics.

Steve Kimball is a proud native Vermonter who returned to Bennington after building a successful career in commercial real estate. With a background in community sports and organizational development, Kimball channels his visionary strategic skills and entrepreneurial spirit as a BSF board member. His experiences offer valuable perspectives on sustainable growth and efficient resource allocation. Erin McEnaney’s work at Orvis’ corporate office in Manchester and her involvement in coordinating youth sports leagues highlight her organizational skills and commitment to the local community. With over 15 years of experience in corporate administration and HR, McEnaney provides an expert perspective in team management and program coordination.

Melissa Morrison’s multi-generational Vermont roots and extensive experience in youth sports administration demonstrate her deep connection to the community and commitment to fostering athletic opportunities for children. As the owner of At Home Senior Care and a former director of NorShaft soccer, a Southern Vermont youth soccer program, Morrison offers a wealth of organizational expertise. Her personal experiences as a parent of young athletes enrich her perspective on the importance of sports in building character and confidence. Carson Thurber’s leadership as Head of School at Stratton Mountain School and his previous roles in healthcare and local government underscore his commitment to education and community development. With a background in entrepreneurship and public service, Thurber applies strategic mindset and a collaborative approach to his work with BSF. His extensive experience in education, athletics, and healthcare provide valuable insights into youth development and community engagement, making him a key asset in shaping the foundation’s direction.

As BSF looks ahead, Jenkins and Larkin aim to continue expanding their programming and outreach efforts, and are grateful for the generous support of all community donors who contribute to their mission. “We’re continuing to grow,” affirms Jenkins. “As we grow, we want to make sure that we stay grounded in our mission of prioritizing the individual needs of our partner organizations and their participating children.” Larkin echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of strategic growth. “Our goal is to support more organizations and children while maintaining the quality and impact of our grants.”

Financial sustainability is also a key focus for BSF. “We’ve been able to almost double our original commitment of up to $20,000 in annual funding, with plans to support this target through a combination of existing resources and strategic fundraising efforts,” says Jenkins. BSF is also exploring potential opportunities to broaden its scope beyond traditional sports programs. “While our core program will remain focused on supporting youth sports, we’re open to expanding our reach to encompass other recreational activities that promote physical fitness and community engagement,” notes Larkin. Jenkins adds: “We aim to strengthen partnerships with local organizations, schools, and community groups to amplify our impact and reach. By working together, we can leverage resources to ensure that every child in our community has the opportunity to thrive through sports.”