In the span of three years, Brian Gamsey lost four of his closest friends, but he’s keeping their memories alive with the Triple Play Foundation. “In baseball a triple play is when a team makes three outs in one play, it’ something special,” said Gamsey, founder and executive director of the Triple Play Foundation.
Gamsey, a Sandy Springs native, lost four of his closest friends between the winter of 2003 and the fall of 2006: Kyle Burnat, Jimmy Prior, Davy Ferguson and Andy Gathers. All of them were under the age of 23 and were athletes and loved sports. Gamsey had every reason to be negative and hopeless, but it was after Gathers’ funeral that he decided to change his mindset. Instead of focusing on his negative emotions, he wanted to focus on the positive, and instead of asking why this was happening, ask how he could make it better. This is when Triple Play Foundation started.
Starting in 2007, the non-profit has strived to help at risk youths in Atlanta but especially the Athens area, working closely with Fowler Drive Elementary.
Fowler Drive Elementary is a Title I school and 99.1% of their students qualify for free or reduced lunch. TPF has helped the school set up an attendance and collective responsibility program. Each grade level has an attendance competition and each week those who win have their names read over the intercom and receive a trophy. There’s also an award to those with perfect attendance each month.
It’s not just awards that help these kids want to participate more in school, it’s about those they can look up to, student athletes at the University of Georgia. TPF has set up students to hang with UGA student athletes including AJ Green and Todd Gurley among others. TPF believes that when kids who normally don’t believe they can go to college see these athletes they can understand that college is possible.
“We use sports not only to facilitate the actual event but to use it as a tool for social change,” said Gamsey.
Not only do these athletes come to read and talk to the children of Fowler Drive Elementary, but they also set up the College Can program with UGA where students can come and visit UGA and its coaches and students. The children get to see the locker rooms and how college can help them achieve their goals and lives. “They see how the athletes are here for an education and not to just become professionals. They get to see the character aspect of their lives,” said Gamsey.
Sarah Sheehan, a board member of the Triple Play Foundation, became involved because she found their mission “critically important” to the success of student in Athens and Atlanta. Sheehan, who works mostly with Fowler Drive Elementary, talked about wanting to reverse the decrease in school attendance and college attainment, “I saw that TPF provided that,” said Sheehan. “I know that the school felt like they had a partner in TPF, to support the development and engagement of students.”
There are a lot of students that grow up in Athens, right next to the state’s biggest university, but never get a chance to attend class on the campus, which is why organizations like TPF are crucial.
Although TPF has close ties with Fowler Drive Elementary, they are here to help all children. TPF fills grants for schools and other non-profit entities that need sports equipment and they finance these operations through grants and throwing parties and fundraisers.
The employees at the Triple Play Foundation say the success is due to the people who work there. Both Sheehan and Amy Itkin, an intern for TPF, both talked about how the founder Brian Gamsey is essential to the organization with his positive attitude and energy. “The team at TPF has been amazing. Everyone is so positive – all about creating love!!!” said Itkin.
The team works hard to incorporate the values sports teach, integrity, passion, drive, and teach them to the at risk youths that need positive examples and for someone to believe in them. “To me in the public arena, love is justice, and Triple Play tries to just bring love to the community,” said Gamsey.
“It’s not about the credit, it’s about the love.”