How AAHOA Member Shay Patel saw inequality and took the steps to eliminate it with Alley-Oop Kids
In 2014, Shay Patel witnessed kids in his community who didn’t have access to the same resources he did. Some of these were things we often take for granted, like appropriate shoes. But as COVID-19 has impacted the world, Patel took his cause one step further by getting donations of computers and tablets so kids in his community could partake in distance learning, too.
What was your inspiration for starting this nonprofit?
When I was 11 (2014), I visited my local Boys & Girls Club for basketball practice and was so shocked to see that other kids there did not have basic basketball gear like I had. Some even wore flip-flops and, honestly, it made me feel sad and angry. Then and there, I decided to help eliminate this inequality and that’s when Alley-Oop Kids was born. If I can help young people in my community, my hope and dream is that what I do here will have a ripple effect on communities all over the country and eventually the world.
When did you get started and how?
We started in 2014. Alley-Oop Kids was originally just my mom and me brainstorming feasible ways we could help the kids at the Boys & Girls Club. I was empowered by the belief that I needed to help these kids get proper sports gear and by the belief that I wasn’t too young to make a difference. As many early organizations do, we reached out to family and friends to get started with early donations for our first project. Through crowdfunding and with the help of more than 15 kid volunteers, I raised $6,000 for new gear for the entire basketball program of the Boys & Girls of the Peninsula.
How has being from a hotelier family influenced or impacted your philanthropic work?
As a third-generation immigrant born into a hotelier family, I have been around the hotel-owning community my entire life. As the first hotelier in the family, my grandfather Mahendra Parbhubhai Patel came to the United States from Zambia with just a few dollars in his pocket and an intention to achieve the American Dream. Despite the lack of capital, he used his innate business acumen to purchase his first roadside motel in Menlo Park, CA, in the early 1970s. He and my grandmother Ramila Patel worked hard (that’s an understatement) to keep food on their large family’s table and a roof over their head, often entailing exhausting night shifts and laborious room cleaning, all the while making their motel living quarters their warm home. The next generation, my father and mother, Bimal Patel and Supna Kohli Patel, were blessed with a solid foundation of a college education, corporate work experience, and the existing family business, which enabled them to set sights on expansion. My parents were able to successfully grow the hotel business over the years and with that came an opportunity to look beyond ourselves and to start helping others. I have been fortunate enough to live comfortably due to the hard work of previous generations. However, being exposed to less-fortunate communities through travel basketball and even through interaction with our own hotel staff, I realized at a young age that many other families are still where my grandfather was when he first came to America. That realization has inspired me to take action to help others in ways I can, adding another layer to our family realizing the American Dream by paying it forward.
How can the AAHOA community get involved with the cause?
We are so grateful to so many San Francisco Bay Area AAHOA Members who have generously donated to our cause over the years. We rely on these donations to keep impacting kids. Tax-deductible donations can be made on our website, www.alleyoopkids.org, or you can download our free app. If you have any sports equipment or eLearning devices (old computers, tablets, etc.), post them on the app and someone in your area who needs it will contact you. From there, all you have to do is set up a pickup point, which could simply be leaving it on your doorstep and you have now made a difference in someone’s life. Every transaction and item are free. It is truly the easiest way to make a major positive impact in your community. Additionally, we are always looking for kids to join our cause! Anyone can join who wants to make a difference using the ambassador application on our website.
What advice do you have for other teens who want to make a difference?
Simply put, you can make a major impact on your community at any age. More specifically, I would recommend finding something that interests you and help others in that field (i.e., enjoying math and tutoring kids for free in math). I don’t think I’m that different from most teenagers. We all want to be kind to others and help them.
Has anything changed in the organization due to COVID-19?
COVID-19 has forced me to think outside the box to continue our mission. We pivoted from in-person to virtual sports training. Unable to do our annual 3-point fundraiser, we are using social media for an online challenge/fundraiser. We also added the ability to donate and receive eLearning devices on our new app Alley-Oop to get devices to kids that need them for distance learning.
To find out more about how you can get involved, visit alleyoopkids.org. The Alley-Oop app is available now on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.