Down at the in East Providence, serious business was afoot last Wednesday. In the childcare center, residents brainstormed ways to , which is one of several proposed budget cuts in our waterfront community that's saddled with millions of dollars worth of reoccurring debt.
Seated in plastic chairs suited for their pint-sized counterparts, the meeting's attendees were in no mood to play around.
"As with any battle, you want to start off strong," said Jonathan Pangborn, a local club soccer coach. Pangborn added that a united front should make a compelling point to members of the budget commission, the holding the city's purse strings.
The man behind the groundswell is BMX professional Kevin Robinson, also known by his moniker, K-Rob. The vert rider is famed for his accolades, including two gold medals won in the 2006 X Games.
Robinson and his wife, Robin, are both East Providence natives and attended the city's public schools. They moved to Barrington, a neighboring community, to raise a young family. But when they heard their hometown's athletic programs were on the chopping block, they couldn't sit back and watch.
"I don't think [the budget commission] is thinking of the repercussions...You can't keep taking away from kids who don't have a voice," Robinson said, adding that he thinks property values will dip as the quality of city schools decline.
Robinson's non-profit, The K-Rob Foundation, is backing efforts to help defray the $106,000 needed to fund the programs. The biggest event: the second-annual Family Fun Day to be held on May 20 at Pierce Field in East Providence.
"It's about awareness," he said. "The city needs to unite to solve this problem."
The foundation primarily raises funds to pay students' athletic fees separate from city-paid costs. But he anticipates a booth will be dedicated to the middle school sports crusade. Jamie Silva, a NFL player and East Providence native, is also adding some star power to the event.
But until then, Robinson aims to keep the community focused on the prize and continue to rally without delving into the negative. He also urges politicians to leave behind personal agendas for the sake of the children.
"Any past problems you've had with anybody, it's time to put everything aside, be adults and move forward," he said.
During the meeting, members pledged to attend public budget hearings, petition local legislators and write members of the media. Many wore red and white sweatshirts, a visual nod to the city's slogan: "Townie Pride."
"I love seeing the community come together and everyone unite—not only the city of East Providence but the state of Rhode Island," Robinson said. "We're the people that vote...It's important for us to voice our opinions."
Robinson met with Budget Commission Chairman Michael O'Keefe and two state staffers Monday morning. He said the conversation was "fabulous."
"They want to keep sports just as much as everyone does. Unfortunately they have a job to do," he said after the meeting. "Right now we're trying to come up with ideas."
He also made a showing at last Thursday's budget commission meeting.
"I hope that people can look beyond the controversy and politics," Robinson said. "I hope they can look into their hearts."
According to Robinson, if anyone visits during the month of March from 3 to 6 p.m., price of admission will be donated to saving middle school sports programs.