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Checking In with Our Grantees: Thomas & Woods Foundation

Get to know the Thomas and Woods Foundation and hear how they’re improving health and wellness for Philadelphia youth with a little help from their 2020 Spruce Foundation grant.

— Kerry Slade, Chairperson of Thomas and Woods Foundation

The Thomas and Woods Foundation was founded by Isaiah Thomas and Chris Woods in 2015 to provide programs that support Philadelphia’s youth and families. The two friends participated in many basketball programs together growing up and realized as they became older that their involvement in activities, including the mentorship and structure they brought, helped keep them on track to success in school and college. Several years after they started running a week-long basketball camp in August, during the week in which no free city programs were available for kids, they formalized the Thomas and Woods Foundation. We serve some of the youth and families most likely to be victims of poverty, mass incarceration, and gun violence in Philadelphia.

Today, we run four main programs throughout the year. Our largest program is the annual summer Basketball Camp, which expanded to three weeks in three locations for the first time in 2022 and counted almost 300 children in attendance. In addition to basketball lessons, drills, and games, we exposed students to guest speaker leaders and legislators, arts and crafts, and robotics and coding. The Camp also creates a virtuous cycle of community as campers join us year after year, and more than a third of our coaches were prior campers who have come back to coach. We also run a year-round Basketball Beyond Buckets program, where young men in middle and high school meet weekly to practice and compete in tournaments. Around Thanksgiving and the holidays, we run at least one turkey and meal drive or other food or coat giveaway to meet the immediate needs of the community.

Over the winter, our MLK Day Speech Contest pairs high school juniors and seniors with a coach to help them write and perform their own speech. During the coaching sessions, we bring in past winners and guest speakers to inspire the youth. Participants’ speeches are then performed live at a special event on Martin Luther King Day with guest judges (held virtually the past two years) and the top three speeches win one of three scholarships totaling $3,500. In 2020, the $5,000 grant from the Spruce Foundation was critical in helping us fund scholarships for the 2021 program. Also, a number of Spruce Foundation board members join us as coaches in this program each year!

Thomas and Woods has plans to grow in the coming years by raising additional funds to hire an executive director and expand our programs. Specifically, we want to expand our Basketball Camp beyond basketball to meet the needs of children with other interests, many of whom attend our camp due to a lack of other options. We hope to continue to partner with the Spruce Foundation and other Philadelphia supporters to serve more youth in the coming years!

Want to support the Spruce Foundation in our efforts to provide grants to youth-serving nonprofits? Make a donation today.