Old ball cards find a new audience

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 2, 2012

The Clemmons Courier

Like many kids, Mitchell Kennedy enjoys collecting sports cards. But the Clemmons teenager has taken his hobby a step further.
Kennedy, who is 15 and a freshman at West Forsyth, decided last year that he wanted to share that experience with other young people who are going through hard times or are unable to purchase cards on their own.
So he started Sports Cards for Kids, where he seeks donations of any sports cards and then packages and delivers them monthly to the Boys & Girls Club in Winston-Salem.
How did he get started with such an endeavor?
“Someone that mom knows has a son, and they don’t have a lot,” Kennedy said. “I had some extra cards because I collect them myself, and I told mom to give them to someone else who would appreciate it. I heard later that he still had the card on his nightstand and was really excited about it. I was like what if I make this a big thing and hand them out to a lot of kids.”
He quickly realized that he didn’t have enough cards to reach a large audience before his supply would be depleted, so Kennedy figured out the best way to make it work.
He established a website and sought out the help of a new sports card business, ScoreMore, which is at Harper Hill Commons Shopping Center near the intersection of Peace Haven Road and Country Club Road in Winston-Salem.
ScoreMore owner Michael Stang agreed that Kennedy could have a box designated for donated cards in his store. Kennedy usually stops by each Friday to pick up the cards.
“I knew I needed to get donations to make this happen,” said Kennedy, who sorts through the cards in downstairs in the family home and puts together packs of 20. “I always put 14 new cards in a pack, five superstars and one older player in the Hall of Fame. Sometimes I have autograph or jersey cards.”
And once a month he takes 100 packs (2,000 cards) to the Boys & Girls Club on Reynolds Park Road and gives them to appreciative kids.
“I hand them out and ask them what they got, and they’re usually really excited,” Kennedy said.
LeBron James cards are always the most popular, according to Kennedy, and Michael Jordan still has a strong following. Right now, he is distributing just football and basketball cards but will soon add baseball cards to the mix.
Kennedy said that even some of the younger children, such as those from kindergarten to second grade, get more excited than you might think.
“They don’t know the players as well, but they know the teams,” Kennedy said.
The kids now look forward to his visits and keep a close watch on their cards. Kennedy’s mom, Cindy, takes him on the deliveries.
“I’m the chauffeur, so I hang back and watch,” she said. “The lady there said, ‘Come here, I want to show you something.’ The boys were pulling cards out from their packs. They had every card that he had given him. They keep them. She said, ‘It’s the threat now that I threaten to take those cards away when they’re acting up.’ ”
Kennedy, who plays soccer but is currently hobbled after having knee surgery, is a big sports fan himself. He pulls for all the professional sports teams in North Carolina — Carolina Panthers (football), Charlotte Bobcats (basketball) and Carolina Hurricanes (hockey) — along with the New York Mets (baseball). He also roots for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dad, Michael, went to UNC “and he kind of brainwashed me.”
Kennedy has asked some players to autograph cards, usually via Twitter, and Armanti Edwards, the former Appalachian State star who now plays for the Panthers, sent 20 autographed cards. Another Panther, Thomas Davis, consented to sign some cards.
“I would like to get Chris Paul to sign some,” Kennedy said of the former West Forsyth star who played at Wake Forest and is now one of the top point guards in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers. “I went to the Bobcats-Clippers game and sat in the middle of the Paul family. I didn’t plan on it. It just worked out that way. I talked to his mom.”
He has a couple of other contacts he is exploring to reach Paul.
“If all else fails, I’ll contact the Chris Paul Foundation,” Kennedy said.
A couple of the major card distributors, Panini and Upper Deck, have said they would donate cards. A person from Wisconsin found his website and sent cards, and Kennedy hopes he’ll get more cards that way, too.
In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, Kennedy has also delivered cards to kids at The Children’s Home and Brenner Children’s Hospital. He hopes to go to more hospitals and broaden his reach in the future. He has planned a visit to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte on April 2.
For those interesting in donating cards, they can be dropped off at ScoreMore in the Sports Cards for Kids donations box. The address is 4944 Martin View Lane, Winston-Salem, NC 27104, and the website is scoremorenow.com.
Cards can also be shipped to Sports Cards for Kids, 6255 Towncenter Dr #621, Clemmons NC 27012, and the website is sportcardsforkids.org.