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Vernon Hills woman keeping kids in the game
By Mick Zawislak | Daily Herald Staff

Tina Sernett, left, of Vernon Hills, delivers a bag of balls to 14-year-old Lilly Celis of Waukegan at the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County in Waukegan. Sernett founded The Sports Shed, which collects like-new sports equipment for nonprofit groups.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Fourteen-year-old Shawn'Qua Wade of Waukegan carries away balls donated by The Sports Shed at the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County in Waukegan.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

The Boys and Girls Club of Lake County is one of the recipients of sports equipment donated by The Sports Shed, organized by Vernon Hills resident Tina Sernett.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/30/2009 11:43 AM

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There was no light bulb moment, but as the sports equipment piled up, Tina Sernett decided there had to be a way to put it to good use.

With two athletic daughters, Sernett had accumulated some like-new equipment that had a lot of life left as the kids moved on to other sports or upgraded their equipment.

"I figured there were other families in the same situation," she said. "On the flip side, I started making some phone calls to see if there was a need for these types of things."

The Vernon Hills woman began checking the Internet and making calls to social service agencies. There was a need, she learned, and got serious about collecting and distributing gear from a variety of sports.

In January, The Sports Shed was organized as a not-for-profit company to provide resources to kids who want to play sports but don't have the equipment.

"I'm very passionate about helping people who don't have the resources," she said. "There were things I wanted to do as a kid but I didn't do them because I didn't have the resources to buy the stuff to play."

Searching for outlets, she paired with Girls in the Game, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides sports and fitness opportunities. That connection led Sernett to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, also Chicago based.

Locally, many of the 700 kids served by the Boys & Girls Club of Lake County have been able to take to the fields because of Sernett's contributions.

"She filled the (wish) list basically. It's pretty amazing," said Lori Crowell, a site coordinator with the organization. The list included bases and other equipment, not just balls and gloves, she added.

"When we go to the park, we're playing baseball because of The Sports Shed."

Boys & Girls Club CEO Cesilie Price, said fitness and healthy lifestyles are an important part of the youth development. With so many kids participating in sports, the equipment wears out in a hurry.

"If we tell her some things we'd like to do with the kids, she finds the equipment," Price said. "It's a huge help."

Sernett has collection bins at the Vernon Hills Park District Sullivan Center, 635 Aspen Drive, and Sports 11, 838 S. Milwaukee Ave. in Libertyville, and has an arrangement with the Vernon Hills Cougar Youth Athletic Association to allow collections at its events.

She estimated that as many as 3,000 pieces have been collected, including an Eagle Scout project that netted 1,000. She also has sold surpluses of certain items and used the proceeds to buy other items.

The most-needed items are basic, such as soccer and basketballs, although shin guards, tennis rackets, hockey gear or nearly anything is fair game, so to speak.

As a not-for-profit organization, Sernett must deal directly with like agencies and can't fill individual orders.

"It's not like Billy can call me up and say, 'My parents don't have any money, can I have a mitt?'" she said.

But she says the effort is just starting and she will be looking for more organizations to work with.

"I think my biggest challenge right now is I wish I had a partner doing it with me. I'd like to stir up some excitement, getting people to volunteer."

Arrangements can be made for local pickup of used equipment by contacting Sernett at (847) 791-7320. For more information, visit