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Just for them

Mother-son event to benefit community

By Kayla Baugh

This article was published August 27, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

from-left-kristen-kennon-ceo-of-the-nonprofit-playing-it-back-and-her-sons-slater-kennon-2-and-steele-kennon-5-and-laura-walker-former-director-of-the-jacksonville-boys-girls-club-and-cfo-of-playing-it-back-gear-up-for-the-first-tutus-and-tennis-shoes-set-for-6-to-8-pm-sept-9-at-the-jacksonville-boys-girls-club-the-proceeds-will-benefit-both-the-club-and-playing-it-back-kennon-said-the-event-is-important-because-there-are-many-father-and-daughter-events-out-there-but-not-for-a-mother-and-son

From left, Kristen Kennon, CEO of the nonprofit Playing It Back, and her sons, Slater Kennon, 2, and Steele Kennon, 5, and Laura Walker, former director of the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club and CFO of Playing It Back, gear up for the first Tutus and Tennis Shoes set for 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club. The proceeds will benefit both the club and Playing It Back. Kennon said the event is important because there are many father-and-daughter events out there, but not for a mother and son.

Mothers, grandmothers and sons of all ages are gearing up to wear capes and tutus for an evening of laughter, games and memories.

The event will provide a rare opportunity for mothers and sons to participate in something just for them, said Kristen Kennon, CEO of Playing It Back, a nonprofit that was founded this year to provide sporting equipment to those in need.

“This event specifically is so important because I feel there are so many father-and-daughter events out there, but nothing for a mother and son. I have two boys myself and think this is going to be such a fun night for them to get out with just me and play and make memories. I am really looking forward to it,” she said.

Tutus and Tennis Shoes will take place from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club, and proceeds will benefit both the club and Playing It Back.

“We will provide dinner, a cape for the boys and a tutu for the moms. We will also have a photo booth and lots of games for them to play. The attire is casual, but we encourage everyone to dress up as much as they want,” she said.

A contest will be held for the best-dressed couple, and Kennon said she plans to have costumed super heroes at the event for photos as well.

Admission is $30 per pair and $10 for each additional son, she said.

“Most parents of kids who are heavily involved in sports have a garage full of slightly used sports equipment [the kids] have outgrown or have no need for, and there are so many kids who could use it. What I love about this is that I am able to use my background in sports and my skills as an entrepreneur to give back in the most perfect way,” she said.

Kennon said she played basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis and softball while she was growing up, and she has a master’s degree in sports administration.

She worked for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation as an activity monitor in 2002 before working her way up to serving as the director for four years, she said.

Kennon has also coached her son’s T-ball team for the past four seasons and quickly realized the need young athletes have for quality sports equipment.

The main mission of Playing It Back is “to collect and distribute sporting equipment to individuals, teams, leagues or organizations; to engage youth in athletics; to promote health, team work and community involvement; and to help ensure that youth have proper sporting equipment to learn the skills of their sport,” she said.

Giving back is something Kennon said she has always been passionate about, and she took her father, Donald Griggs’, spot on the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors when he died in 2006.

“My father was a wonderful example of someone who gave not only his money but also his time, and I hope to emulate that,” she said.

Kennon still serves on the board of directors and is also president of the Jacksonville Sertoma Club.

Her hobbies include playing tennis and spending time with family and friends, she said, and she is also “Parody Mom” on social media.

Laura Walker, chief financial officer of Playing It Back, said she is excited to see how the Tutus and Tennis Shoes event will grow over the years.

“I have three girls, so I see, play and live dolls, dress-up and girly girl stuff every day. I am excited to watch the boys get that special one-on-one time with their mamas,” she said.

Walker said that when Kennon shared the idea of Playing It Back with her, she knew right away that she wanted to be a part of it.

“Playing It Back is designed to aid in providing needed sports equipment for children who want to be involved,” Walker said. “In today’s society, there is such a need for children to learn at an early age that we are all valuable, and being part of a team will encourage that mindset.”

Walker currently serves as vice president of the Jacksonville Sertoma Club and was director of the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club for six years.

The Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club is a place that allows children to learn to support one another and become involved in the community.

“When I left the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville to work with my husband in the business that we own, Get a Grip of Little Rock, I knew that I wanted to stay involved in community outreach, and this is one way that I am able to do so,” she said.

Walker said the event will support not only members of the club, but the sports that they participate in as well.

“I hope to impact central Arkansas,” Kennon said, “by providing a solution to the lack of quality equipment and the bullying of children without it, and leveling the playing field so all of our young athletes have a chance to shine.”

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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