June 15, 2023

This past May, Coach Michael Whitlow huddled his youth football organization together for a prayer, a routine they follow every practice. As the kids settled, Michael and his wife Maree were presented with an envelope that would change the Columbus ICE program forever. Maree choked back tears as she read aloud that the organization was just given $75,000 from The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation as a part of their 75for75 Sports Matter Grant Program.

Columbus ICE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit youth sports organization that serves under-resourced communities in Columbus, OH, with a mission to Inspire Children to Excellence (ICE). Founded by the Whitlows in 2009, Columbus ICE promotes health, education, attitude, recreation, and teamwork through sport. The program also focuses on academic excellence, conduct and accountability. Each day before practice the Whitlows provide their youth athletes with several resources to help them be their best, both on and off the field. Whether it’s providing an extra meal after school, transportation to and from practice, or help with homework and tutoring – the Whitlows do what they can to give back to a community that has become an important part of their family over the past 14 years.

Columbus ICE athletes celebrating a win.

“I can still remember our very first practice… it was us, our kids, a handful of coaches and their kids,” said Maree. “We weren’t sure anyone was going to show up but lo and behold, the cars started coming into the park… the people kept coming and coming… and today… we’re family."

These family values are shown in the care that Michael, Maree and their staff provide the children, and through the support they give to the adults in each child’s life. ICE places a deep emphasis on family values and works to supply the adults’ opportunities to achieve their own form of excellence through career fairs, resume support and educational courses that focus on life skills like meal planning and budgeting.

While Michael and Maree are in the drivers’ seat of the organization, their adult son Noah (pictured above) also assists by running the concession stand for the children every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night. As a child, Noah experienced the magic of Columbus ICE and wants to help pay it forward to today’s participants.

Morgan Baughman, Senior Community Marketing Manager at DICK’S Sporting Goods has worked first-hand with ICE over the past six years and can personally attest to the life-changing work they do. She’s watched the organization grow from their humble beginnings as a one-team recreation center basketball squad full-fledged youth sports organization that now includes flag-football, cheer & dance, and track.

After years of supplying equipment and donations as needed, Morgan was present the day the grant was presented. “Michael and Maree are incredible, and I can’t think of a more deserving duo to provide this grant to. They have always been so humble and grateful and to see their hard work pay off in such a big way was amazing,” she said.

“This grant will do so much for our community,” said Michael. “Just knowing that we’re going to have access to change lives and continue to live our mission (Inspire Children to Excellence) is incredible."

The 75for75 Sports Matter Grant Program was launched in March in support of DICK’S Sports Change Lives campaign and in honor of the company’s 75th anniversary. The program was developed to provide 75 grants worth $75,000 each to under-resourced youth sports programs across the country.

To learn more and support the 75for75 Sports Matter Grant Program and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation, visit