By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
It started on a spring day in 2015. Little boys with dreams of hitting a big homerun gathered together for T-Ball, that first step in learning how to make bat meet ball. Billy Mayhall, a member of Utility Workers Local 335 with Missouri American Water, was team coach.
“I had a kid I was coaching on that little T-ball team. His mom said her kid couldn’t play because they couldn’t afford cleats or a bat,” Mayhall said. “I started asking for things, and I thought I’d have a couple of bats, a couple of cleats. I ended up with a barrage of sports equipment landing at my doorstep.”
Three friends joined him, Neil Thomas, a businessman; Billy Stiles, a bricklayer; and Scott Collet, a St. Ann Police Commissioner, and that’s how STL Youth Sports Outreach (STLYSO) was born.
Both of Mayhall’s sons were T-Ball teammates. They now help him run the charity.
MAKING THE MOST OF GOOD FORTUNE
After the massive donations arrived, Mayhall decided to take the ball and run, as they say, and bought a trailer to store and distribute the balls and bats and gloves and cleats he received. But soon, as more and more donations poured in, he outgrew the trailer and was given free space at New Horizons Presbyterian Church in Overland.
“It isn’t even my church, but they reached out when they heard I needed space,” Mayhall said. “They have been absolutely amazing.”
Now, he said, he has almost a full-blown sporting goods store in two large rooms in the basement of the church.
“People come in, and let’s say a kid needs cleats and a bigger bat. We don’t turn anyone away,” Mayhall said, “but we do urge them to donate their old equipment. That’s the circle of life – so a kid younger than them will get stuff, too.”
STL SPORTS STILL GROWING
Over the years, Mayhall and STLYSO have reached a level of notoriety that has spurred area business and private donors from throughout the country to come through with help. In December 2018, Mayhall’s employer, Missouri American Water, proudly donated $1,500 to support St. Louis Youth Sports. Earlier that year, Mayhall also appeared on an online documentary “Returning the Favor with Mike Roche,” which brought him even more attention. (The video is available on YouTube.)
“When that happened, the donations just blew up,” Mayhall said. “We’ve been getting donations all the time, left and right. Word travels fast, and it’s something we didn’t expect, but ‘Returning the Favor’ blew us out of the water with national coverage. I’ve had phone calls from across the country asking how to help.”
STLYSO was able to spend $37,000 at Sports Authority at an extremely discounted price before their going out of business sale opened to the public, Mayhall said. STLYSO has also worked with Rawlings to ensure that factory-reject equipment goes to support STLYSO’s mission.
So, said Mayhall, the store became very well stocked, and has continued to be that way.
HARD TIMES FOR SUMMER SPORTS, CHARITIES
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayhall was forced to close the “store” and cancel this year’s public charity events – an anomaly that is unprecedented, he said.
“Normally we’d have kids coming in and out switching out their bats and cleats for the new summer baseball team,” Mayhall said. “But as far as I can see, I believe summer sports programs for children – and everyone will be canceled this year.”
Right now, the doors are shut. They have a “wrapped” truck advertising the charity, so that has spurred interest, but what really hurts is not having their annual fundraiser, Mayhall said.
The organization usually holds, as it has for the past 14 years, a Rock ’n Roll Bingo night, which raises money for college scholarships. This year, there will be no large source of income.
“The organization provides sporting equipment, scholarships and raises funds for children’s groups in need,” Mayhall said. “We help sick children, donate TVs and X-Boxes. Nobody makes a penny, we all do it for free. We’ve even given away a car to a single mother.”
Mayhall says that while the focus of STLYSO will always be sport equipment based, it has expanded beyond that to other areas of need. Other activities will still benefit kids and still generally be sport focused –
but will always stay true to the original idea – “Help us put a smile on a child’s face that doesn’t always have a reason to smile.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
STL Youth Sports Outreach generally accepts donations of youth sports equipment in good/usable or new condition. They are currently unable to accept sports equipment donations, but when the COVID-19 crisis ends, look for their donation box in the parking lot of New Horizons Presbyterian Church, 9424 Everman Ave. in Overland.
Visit STLYSO on Facebook for information.
STL Youth Sports Outreach is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit community-based organization. It is a fully volunteer-run operation – no one is paid for their efforts in running the program. All donations (equipment, cash, services, etc.) go directly to benefit the youth of the community.
For more information or to make a financial donation, contact Billy Mayhall at 314-312-9231. Checks can be payable to STL Youth Sports Outreach, 12 Glen Eagle Ct., Troy, MO 63379; or through PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.