Building the whole kid

Newly formed Cheney Athletic Foundation sets high goals and vision for local youth athletics


Growing up in the Bellevue, Wash.-area, former college basketball player Nick Livi took advantage of the opportunities larger metropolitan areas offer regarding youth programs, taking part in sports and activities through the parks and recreation department, after school programs and boys and girls clubs.

Pursuing his master’s degree in social work at Eastern Washington University, the former Eastlake High School basketball standout began working with the Cheney Parks and Recreation Department this summer and came to realize area youth were missing some opportunities he had growing up, opportunities he considers essential in turning kids into responsible adults.

Having a passion for non-profit work – he tried setting up his own non-profit foundation while still in high school – Livi conceived of an idea and ran it by Parks and Recreation Director Paul Simmons last fall. Over the next few months the pair and other city staff kicked around ideas, hashed out details, formulated plans and goals and last Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Park Board, unveiled their brainchild – the Cheney Athletic Foundation.

The CAF has several individual goals but all built around a central theme of “Building a positive community where student athletes grow as individuals and prepare for life beyond sports.”

“We’re really just getting started,” Simmons. “It’s still fresh, fresh, fresh.”

City attorneys are finalizing paperwork, but Simmons said the CAF should soon be set up as a non-profit entity separate from the city.

“I’d say within a month we should be filed as a non-profit with a bank account and start to raise money,” he added.

“We’re looking at it as an open canvas to helping all sorts of youth from different backgrounds,” Livi said. “To help them use athletics as a tool for additional education. Building the whole kid.”

The CAF’s vision is to raise money to fund athletic facilities, programs and people as well as provide financial assistance to area student-athletes. The foundation’s goals and plans are ambitious, as laid out in their presentation to the Park Board.

By Dec. 31, 2013 the foundation hopes to have created a $500,000 endowment fund to provide for its long-term sustainability. By June 1 they hope to raise $10,000 providing more than 100 scholarships for low-income youth to participate in athletic programs, and another $10,000 for an equipment replacement fund for Cheney athletic programs.

They also look to host two youth development camps to fund these two programs, and raise another $25,000 by Dec. 31 to conduct a feasibility study for the city on creating an indoor athletic facility. Simmons added they are also hope to expand and enhance existing programs and facilities as well as provide support for Special Olympics.

How the foundation will accomplish this is a work in progress, but both Simmons and Livi have ideas, including using some of Livi’s contacts generated from his collegiate basketball days.

Recruited out of Eastgate by former Eagles coach Ray Giacoletti in 2004, Livi spent two years at Eastern under Giacoletti’s successor Mike Burns, playing one year with future NBA player Rodney Stuckey and other future European league players like Paul Butorac.

When Burns was let go after the 2006 season, Livi left, seeking to play at Odessa College in Odessa, Texas. That didn’t work out, so he returned to the area and played at North Idaho College before finishing his career at Southern Utah University.

Livi went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft and eventually tried out as an unrestricted free agent. He was cut the first day of camp, and realized he hadn’t been well prepared during high school and college for life after basketball

“What happens when the basketball stops bouncing?” he said. “My coaches didn’t give us options outside of basketball. They didn’t keep a focus on academics.”

Livi hopes the CAF will help fix that by providing opportunities to not only improve kids athletic skills, but also to use sports as an opportunity to pursue a better education – a life after sports. He and Simmons also see it as a mechanism for local college and pro athletes to give back to their community, but Livi said they must first develop other funding resources before going to the next level.

“We’re definitely looking for donations,” he said with a laugh. “But you’ve got to become professional before becoming a professional.”

Livi said they intend to get kids involved in fundraising, not only to take ownership but because the CAF is really for and about them, not adults. Simmons added that while they’re just starting, the tools are there for success.

“It could be really, really big, but the best thing is there is some real potential for this,” Simmons said.

Both Livi and Simmons serve on the CAF board of directors along with Cheney City Administrator Arlene Fisher.

John McCallum can be reached at


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