MVP-SOS strives to 'pay it forward'
MVP-SOS to host Oct. 15 benefit dinner/auction
Tim Jalbert grew up in a family of 16 children in a small town in Maine, near the Canadian border.
Despite limited financial resources, he and his siblings honed their athletic skills by participating in recreational sports.
The now 52-year-old grandfather reminisced that the summer before high school, some of his local teammates were headed off to hockey camp but his family could not afford to send him.
So his hockey coach and English teacher helped him earn the money and provided transportation.
"It was a dream come true,'' said Mr. Jalbert, now the owner of liquor stores in New Milford and New Fairfield.
Inspired by what his coach, Jay Lowe, did for him, Mr. Jalbert said he wanted to find a way to "pay it forward.''
Eight years ago, Mr. Jalbert teamed up with local friends -- among them, Kevin Dumas, Bill Knipple, Bob Greco and the late Bob Rasor -- to ease the financial burden of pay-to-play sports for students in need.
Their brainchild was a not-for-profit organization they titled Motivational Volunteers Promoting the Spirit of Sports (& Activities), better known today as MVP-SOS.
As a kickoff event, the group hosted a wine-tasting party.
"When I did the math, it was just enough to scratch the surface,'' Mr. Jalbert said.
So he and his friends looked for ways to make a bigger difference.
They introduced the organization's now signature event, an annual dinner and silent auction.
From a simple notion and a few thousand dollars, Mr. Jalbert said he has watched as the group gained momentum. In the past eight years, the mission has broadened far beyond financial assistance for sports activities.
The group donated money for the outdoor electronic information sign at the high school, bought pottery kilns for the school district's art program, provided seed money for a high school film club, and financed out-of-state field trips for middle school and high school students, MVP-SOS member John Kaiser said.
During its second year, MVP-SOS covered some of the costs to help restore three sports at New Milford High School -- golf, gymnastics and boys swimming.
This year, the organization gave a $10,000 grant to the town's Social Services Department to pay for two weekends of camp for 55 low-income children and their families.
It also teamed up with the townwide Parent-Teacher Organization to fund a seminar to teach parents how to help their children safely navigate cyberspace.
MVP SOS also stays true to Mr. Albert's original mission: helping individual students who need money, whether it be to paint, swim or attend a seminar.
"We don't want to be pigeon-holed as just a sports program,'' said Mr. Kaiser, MVP-SOS' publicity chairman.
In eight years, the group has donated more than $130,000, he reported.
Peg Molina, the town's director of social services, praised MVP-SOS for ensuring all students get to participate in extracurricular activities.
She said the organization makes it possible for low-income parents to avoid choosing between paying a child's dance school tuition and making car payments or buying groceries.
"To take that load off a parent's mind is huge,'' Ms. Molina said.
The MVP-SOS "Pay It Forward'' celebrity gala and auction is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Connecticut Sports Arena on Lanesville Road.
This year's dinner and auction -- both silent and live -- will celebrate the organization's roots. A highlight will be an inaugural award to a person who exemplifies the mission.
The guest speaker will be Nikki Stone, an Winter Olympics gold medalist in inverted aerial skiing who won gold after suffering a career-threatening, chronic spinal injury 18 months earlier.
Tickets are $75 each through Aug. 14.
Tables of 10 are available for $750, and a limited number of sponsorship opportunities are still available.
For tickets or more information, call 860-355-2223 or visit www.mvpsos.com.