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Project Diamond Shine polishes kids’ business skills

Katy Rank Lev
March03/ 2016

This winter, Kaitlyn and Brianna Kuczinski visited 25 businesses in Scott Township. The sisters were raising funds to restore the Scott Township Athletic Association (STAA) fields, but they weren’t selling candy bars or gourmet popcorn.

Kaitlyn, age 8, delivered a two-minute presentation about the benefits of sponsorship for this athletic program, which supports 400 children each year. Afterward, Brianna, age 5, tossed the business owner a baseball—signed by her T-ball team—to thank them for their time.

“It was like Halloween,” Brianna says of throwing out balls to business owners, “like handing out candy that makes people smile.” In return for those baseballs, the Kuczinskis scored nearly $13,000 for the fundraising initiative, Project Diamond Shine.

The girls’ father, Mark, grew up playing baseball on those same fields. Now that he’s coaching the program, he’s more aware of the fields’ poor conditions. When Kuczinksi asked the organization what could be done, he learned the restoration would cost $35,000. To raise those funds, Kuczinski knew he needed a targeted fundraising strategy as well as the involvement of the entire organization to emphasize the fields’ important role in the local community.

The STAA earned a $10,000 grant from the Pittsburgh Pirates and came up with a social media campaign for players to raise the rest of the funds: Kids asked community members to donate $20 in exchange for the chance to throw the first pitch at a game in the upcoming season. Kuczinski also developed a sponsorship presentation for the players to deliver to local businesses and corporations.

“This sort of thing isn’t an easy sell while dollars are tight,” Kuczinski says. “It was a great lesson for the kids to go and give presentations, practice their public speaking skills, and learn to accept ‘yes,’ but also learn to accept ‘no.'”

Kuczinski says the field restoration became a by-product of the larger goal of rallying the teams around this effort. “We watched the kids grow personally, and they worked very hard,” he says.

Between in-person presentations and online videos, the organization raised $25,000 in one month. STAA families are still out there raising funds for the fields, helping to secure extras like tarps to cover the restored grass, which should be completed in time for opening day on April 1.

Mark Kuczinksi credits the campaign success to four things: sticking to a plan, staying organized, effective communication, and most importantly, the support of good people.

“Our main goal was bringing people together. The field is just a tangible by-product of this effort,” he says.

Katy Rank Lev

Katy Rank Lev is a professional word wrangler. She writes about women’s health, family, and education when she’s not chasing her 3 sons through Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood.