Bay Area athlete wins Billie Jean King youth award

Serra track and field athlete Rishan Patel will receive the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award at the annual ESPY’s award show on Wednesday night.

But it won’t be because of a blazing time in the 100-meter sprint or hurdles.

Patel, a 16-year-old from Atherton, created a nonprofit organization named Alley-Oop Kids that installs lockers with sporting equipment at “under-resourced schools to use for PE and school sports.”

From as close as Aspire College Prep in Richmond and Summit Prep in Redwood City, to schools in India, Patel’s organization has helped over 100 schools. 

“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Patel told the Bay Area News Group on Wednesday morning. “I think I was shocked and ecstatic, really. That feeling was just crazy, and it’s still lingering today while I wait to go to the show.” 

Patel said the individual glory is not why he is so thrilled to receive the honor. Patel is one of 13 honorees, whose accomplishments include donating thousands of socks to homeless veterans and creating a program that helps children with disabilities learn how to skate. 

Rishan and his older brother Shay had the idea to start Alley-Oop when they played basketball as a child in 2014, which took him to less-affluent areas of the Bay. 

“Being from Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest areas in the country, I’d have basketball practices 10 minutes away in East Palo Alto and in Oakland,” Patel said.

“After those practices and games, I’d notice that there’s kids who didn’t have the same resources I did. Some of them were playing in slides, and using deflated volleyballs as basketballs.”

The Patels had plenty of high-quality equipment that was being unused, so the brothers gave it to a local school that needed it far more than they did.

What started as one donation turned into a mission. Patel said he partners with an organization called Good Sports to get equipment for free, paying only for shipping. He said that as the nonprofit has gained recognition, people have started to donate as well. 

“Now that our project is in the media more, we have people reach out to us and ask if they can give us their used sports equipment that’s in good condition,” the Serra student said.

Serra track coach Jim Marheineke is both proud of and unsurprised by the success of Patel’s project. 

“Working with Rishan in the classroom and on the track, it is no surprise to see him accomplish so much for so many people,” Marheineke told the Bay Area News Group via email. “Whether impacting one single person, or thousands, this is what being a Serra Padre is all about – making a difference for others in a selfless manner.“


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