Their kids had so much sports gear. So the whole family started a nonprofit to donate.

The Jung family of Raleigh runs DonateSport.org, a nonprofit that collects and gives away sports gear and equipment. Pictured are Georgette and Thomas Jung and their children, 13-year-old Andrew, 12-year-old Jocelyn and 9-year-old Jackson.
The Jung family of Raleigh runs DonateSport.org, a nonprofit that collects and gives away sports gear and equipment. Pictured are Georgette and Thomas Jung and their children, 13-year-old Andrew, 12-year-old Jocelyn and 9-year-old Jackson.

In just two years, Thomas and Georgette Jung and their three children have worked together to donate more than $200,000 in sports gear and equipment to kids at home and all over the world. Here, Thomas Jung talks about why this effort is important, and why he and his wife got the whole family involved, including 13-year-old Andrew, 12-year-old Jocelyn and 9-year-old Jackson.

Q: Describe the family connection that inspired your nonprofit, DonateSport.org.

A: My mom was born in Poland in the 1940s and her parents were killed in a farm accident, so for the first 16 years of her life she was in an orphanage. About once a year, she would get a pair of clothes or shoes, all hand-me-downs. My mom was visiting and was telling the kids that story, saying, “You guys don’t know how good you have it with all these brand new Under Armour cleats.” Their jaws hit the floor because they only knew her as Grandma, or Babcia in Polish.

Right around that same time we were going through Andrew’s closet looking at the jerseys, and I said to my wife and mom, “We should do something and try to repurpose this gear.”

Q: What has the organization been able to do?

A: Our goal was to do one project a month the first year. We are now doing three projects a week. Our very first shipment went to the orphanage where my mom was raised. Elementary schools have contacted us — one in Illinois and one in Georgia. Due to funding cuts they don’t have sports equipment or gear. We were able to repurpose soccer balls, new footballs, new basketballs.

We work with the Raleigh Boys Club, and every quarter we drop off 40 or 50 brand new basketballs. I just took 12 shiny baseball helmets out there. It’s great to have an impact locally and then internationally.

Q: What do you do to help children in other countries?

A: We’ve been able to partner with churches going on mission trips … to Kenya, Botswana or Nicaragua. Each person takes two massive suitcases filled with the donations. It’s an inexpensive way of getting things from point A to point B.

Andrew is the brand ambassador, Jocelyn the inventory manager and Jackson the director of collections.

Q: Why did you and your wife decide to get the kids involved?

A: Those are not just fun titles on the website. All three of the kids are very active in what we do, and many hours are involved. There’s so much downtime with kids these days, especially once they’re done with school and sports. We have to keep them off the TV and Xbox a little bit.

Q: How is the project funded?

A: We’re self-funded, so all the overhead is on our shoulders; 99 percent of the donations are given by other people, but we invested about $5,000 to get the nonprofit started. We have a three-bay garage and there’s room for my wife’s car but the other two bays are completely filled with tables and catalogued by size and gender.

Q: What equipment do you need (and not need) and where are your drop sites?

A: Primarily we need sports clothing and gear; 75 percent of what we collect is soccer-based — jerseys, cleats, shorts, jackets, socks, shin guards. The other 25 percent is baseball gear, baseballs and bats, and then we do a lot of basketballs and jerseys.

Some of the sporting gear we receive we don’t have use for — golf clubs and things like that. We’re reaching the poorest of the poor, and folks in Kenya and Nicaragua don’t have access to a golf course.

The bulk of our collection is at WRAL Soccer Park. We also have satellite bins at Soccer Genome, another soccer facility, and Abbotts Creek Elementary.

Q: What do you hope your kids learn from this?

A: I’m a big believer in helping out in the community. Most kids don’t want for anything now in this society. But that’s not how the world works. I hate to use the world “spoiled,” but we’re really privileged, most kids in this country. So I really want my kids to understand it’s tough around the world. Most kids don’t have anything and so if it’s a smile on their face when we get there or videos and pictures back from the kids in Africa ... it’s so special.

Know someone who would make a good Tar Heel of the Week? Send nominations to tarheel@newsobserver.com.

Thomas Jung (and the rest of the Jung family) — Tar Heel of the Week

Born: June 16, 1971

Residence: Raleigh

Organization: DonateSport.org

Family: Wife, Georgette; three children, Andrew, Jocelyn and Jackson

Donation drop-off sites: WRAL Soccer Park, 7700 Perry Creek Road, Raleigh; Soccer Genome, 9101 Durant Road, Raleigh; Abbotts Creek Elementary School, 9900 Durant Road, Raleigh.