A group of kids and their coaches in blue soccer uniforms

Damian Quintana

Meet our Youth Grant Winners: Spring 2024

Every kid deserves an opportunity to play sports.  

Since the beginning, that’s been the simple—and powerful—belief behind the Madison Area Sports Commission Youth Grant program. With support from the local community and the IRONMAN Foundation, more than $470,000 has been awarded to programs that give underserved youth access to activities that teach leadership, teamwork and provide lifelong physical and mental health benefits.  

On March 8, the Madison Area Sports Commission and its Advisory Board announced a new roster of winners: nine new organizations were awarded a total of $20,300. From facility space to equipment to coaching education, these programs are among the best working to fuel the future of sports in Greater Madison. 

Read on for a Q&A with the inspirational, entrepreneurial leaders of these organizations as part of our quarterly series on MASC Youth Grant awardees. 


We were drawn to Sonic by the values, diversity and multilingual aspects of the club, which is very unique for Madison. It not only engages youth players, it also provides parents and extended families the opportunity to engage in fitness activities and resource sharing—on and off the field.” 
—Eugenia Podesta, parent of player and Sonic board member 

MASC: Why is Eugenia Podesta’s perspective significant to Sonic SC? 
Tarek Said: Like Eugenia, I have a child on the team and am a board member, so I wholeheartedly agree about the many ways this program is creating much-needed community. I’ve also been a team manager and have volunteered for four years with the club, so I’ve experienced this program through many lenses, which is why I felt so passionate about applying for this grant. 

MASC: Why did you apply for this grant and what will the funds be used for? 
Tarek: We’ve fielded an estimated 50% increase in inquiries from the prior year—in 2023 we nearly doubled the number of teams playing both recreationally and competitively! We want to keep kids and their families at the parks in our community so, simply put, we need financial support to meet that growth potential. Specifically, this award will allow us to provide the keeper goals, maximizing the use of fields in our neighborhood without having to limit participation. Sonic has always been about inclusivity so having these basics means we can say “yes” to more youth in our southside neighborhood. 

MASC: What other ways are you working to build your community and the goals you have for Sonic? 
Tarek: Our Executive Director, Damian Quintana, has been developing close relationships and collaboration with the City of Fitchburg to provide fields where our teams can train and play in the spring and summer seasons. We have been thrilled to see the city doing everything it can with its resources to help us develop a home base at McKee Farms Park. Together we are continuously adding opportunities and strengthening the whole community through our common values: having a consistent and structured year-round activity in a multicultural and bilingual environment. 

Learn more about Sonic Sport Club’s upcoming season on Facebook (in English and Spanish)! 


Why did I choose Higher Dimensions for my son? He loves the game, but he’s new to the game. I wanted him to develop the skills of growing on a team as well as understanding the discipline and patience that are fundamental to basketball.” –Annie, parent of 7th grade player 

MASC: How many parents come to your program with perspectives like Annie’s? 
Ericka Brown: So many. Too many. (Which is an incredible opportunity!) And that includes me—I founded Higher Dimensions Youth Basketball Program because of my own son, who is now 13 years old. I recognized the importance of Restorative Principles as a key focus for growth and how it syncs with sports. I’m finding a lot of other parents do, too. 

MASC: What do you mean by Restorative Principles and how does it play a role in your program? 
Ericka: Restorative Principles is at the core of our mission at Higher Dimensions. It combines opportunities for social emotional learning while also promoting skill development in basketball. Things like self-reflection, personal responsibility, repairing harm, active listening and building relationships with teammates, coaches and community all help our players strive for personal improvement, both on and off the court. 

MASC: Just WOW. How do you fit those big ideas alongside teaching and coaching basketball basics? Is that where Youth Grant funds come in? 
Ericka: Absolutely! While some of our funding will assist with essentials like healthy snacks and securing gym rentals so our teams have a consistent place to practice, I’m really excited about how it will fuel development of our End of Year Camping Trip. This time together is not only a reward for a successful season, but it also allows the team to bond, develop life skills and create lasting memories. Especially for those who have not had the opportunity to go camping before, it introduces them to new experiences and builds their confidence. 

Read more about how Ericka Brown’s background inspired the Higher Dimensions Youth Basketball Program. 

Stay tuned for more Youth Grant stories this summer!