OZARK, Mo- A recent report by CBS News states that with the rising cost of playing sports, coupled with rising economic inequality, poor and even middle-class families are being forced to hang up their cleats.

One Ozark mom is joining the fight to stop that and make school activities cheaper and accessible to all who want to join them. 

Stacy Wood, the owner of Divine Creations, has two daughters: one just graduated high school and her youngest just started her freshman year. Her eldest daughter was in the color guard at Ozark High School.

“During the first two seasons I was watching how she interacted with all of the other kids and how the kids interacted with her, but then the group as a collective. Then they really formed a family, and it broke my heart when one student would have to drop out for one reason or another, typically because of money,” says Wood. 

Seeing other kids not be able to participate in school functions because it was too expensive inspired her to create Divine Creations as a way to fundraise and help make extracurricular activities affordable. 

Participation in sports among families earning less than $75,000 has dropped since 2011, according to The Aspen Institute’s Project Play.

By contrast, children from better-off families are participating in ever great numbers. About 7 of 10 children from families that earn more than $100,000 play sports, compared with 3 in 10 from families earning less than $25,000, the non-profit think tank found in a 2018 report.

The typical American family spends about $700 per year on their child’s sports activities, but some parents shell out as much as $35,000 annually to pay for lessons, camps, school sports fees, equipment, travel and more, according to Project Play. Even public schools are increasingly charging for sports due to budget cuts, data from the Rand Corporation shows.

Families earning $50,000 or less – or middle- and lower-income households – cited cost as the top reason their kids don’t participate in organized sports, the Rand study noted.

“I am passionate about kids being kids, they have their entire life to be an adult. So if it’s baseball you want to play, if it’s a drama you want to be in, if you want to fluently speak Spanish because you’re planning on being some kind of international traveler let me help, let me help you take that trip with the school cause that’s what we’re here for,” says Wood. 

The bigger picture, according to Tom Farrey, executive director of The Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society program: Middle-class and poor children who can’t afford to play sports may be at a distinct disadvantage compared with kids from affluent families.

“The research shows physically active kids are less likely to be obese, more likely to get a college degree, less likely to suffer chronic illnesses including cancer and more likely to be active as adults, and twice as likely to have active children,” Farrey told CBS News. “Everyone will pay price if we don’t get them off the couch.”

For Stacy, she gives 40% of her profits to the Ozark School District to help pay for equipment and other needs so parents don’t have to pay as much out of pocket.