Shaquille O'Neal on his game changing foundation 'I am glad we were able

High schools across the nation saw their athletic programs sidelined as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Title I high schools, designated by the Department of Education, saw a clear disparity of funding to provide students, coaches and trainers the needed equipment and resources for a safe return to play. To mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation created Get Game Ready, an initiative to help athletic programs restart efficiently when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Grant recipients, announced Wednesday, received financial aid to properly supply their school with personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene and sanitation supplies and other equipment required to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.“We want to at least help these schools cover the cost of crucial supplies in addition to personal protective equipment, like water bottles, uniforms, sports gear, and all of the stuff that they need,” O’Neal told USA TODAY Sports. “We wanted to be there for them.”Title I schools include low-income students that receive federal funds to assist in meeting their educational goals. With increased expenses as a result of new safety protocols and the loss of revenue from fewer on-campus activities, the foundation wanted to focus on schools with the most need.“There is so much that needs to be done,” Kari Uyehara, director of the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, told USA TODAY Sports. “And what we narrowed in on was Title I high schools. We wanted to impact those schools that were affected by COVID-19 and a lot of these sports programs were affected pre-COVID because these schools are in underserved areas with lower-income families. That is the demographic that we wanted to make sure to help as best we could.”The foundation reviewed applications and grant requests, prioritizing the athletic programs that needed the most help.“In September of 2020, we made the grant available and we received a little over 130 applications,” said Uyehara. “From there we began the process. We formed a committee and the committee reviewed all of the applications and we narrowed it down.”Twenty-three schools were chosen and a total of $320,000 was granted. The grant money donated by the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation was in collaboration with IcyHot. It pledged $1 from IcyHot box sales in 2020. Also, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) will provide schools with resources and educational material to better equip schools’ athletic staff to ensure a safe return to play. O’Neal is a spokesman for IcyHot.“In the age of coronavirus, kids can’t share uniforms,” said Uyehara. “They need to be sanitized in between each use. Schools applied for uniforms so they would have two sets. They also applied for things like reusable water bottles, because sanitation and cleanliness are important. Those are things that they never had a huge use for, but now it is a necessity.”Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Nevada is one of the grant recipients.

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