In 2015, Endure Athletics Foundation founder Joel Bigelow saw several young children playing in a narrow median between US Route 231 and a run-down motel, notorious for housing sexual predators and drug addicts. He asked himself, “Who is taking care of these kids? What does the future hold for them?” He knew the answers were grim – No one cared and the future held little hope. Outside of the school system, he knew there weren’t many affordable options for homeless youth in the community for support or guided mentorship. He decided something had to be done. He dreamed of a new possibility and a new future.
Joel and his wife Jeannie desired to make a significant difference in the lives of homeless children in Rutherford County. Their initial vision was simple: put a smile on the children’s faces, provide a safe place to play, and give them a warm homemade meal.
They took action to make this vision a reality. Joel quit his full-time job in August 2015, purchased a 12-passenger van, and established the Endure Athletics Foundation as a 501(c)(3) organization. The written mission became to enrich the lives of homeless youth living in Rutherford County, with a long-range vision of breaking the cycle of generational poverty for these children living in adverse situations – many in homeless shelters, rent-by-the-week motels, or a caretakers’ car.
They started with Saturday morning games. The program quickly grew to include enrichment activities, afterschool programming, academic support, and providing meals throughout the week. Fond memories were formed in the early days. A fifth grader learned to ride a bike. A lonely child was celebrated for scoring a goal. Tired faces smiled after eating a full meal. These moments and so many others further affirmed their purpose.
The Endure Athletics Foundation provides refuge, love and hope to these children. Most students served are from broken families. Many have lost a parent to murder or incarceration. Many suffer personal abuse by a family member. The Endure Athletics Foundation allows students who would otherwise be locked behind doors in a rundown motel to play in safety, eat a healthy meal, receive help with homework, and simply be loved. In our many successes, there is hope and evidence for a better future.
Crucial support from the Tennessee Titans’ Ben Jones and The Jones Mission, the Nashville Predators, Nourish Foodbank, the Experience Church of Murfreesboro, and many others help realize the dreams of what Endure can do in the community for the academic, emotional, and spiritual development of children with disadvantaged childhood experiences. So many people and organizations have helped Endure Athletics grow!
Increased growth is accompanied by increased needs. We need more funding for meals, tutoring, counseling, and more vans for transportation and access to our programs. Each year brings new opportunities to support children seeking stability, discipline, and safety. Please consider partnering with us to serve these children – help give them a sense of belonging and self-worth. Join our story and help create a new future for our community.
Founder and Executive Director