Sports Backers Blog

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council Helps Sports Backers Inspire Active Living for All

RICHMOND, VA – At Sports Backers, our nonprofit mission is to inspire people from all corners of our community to live actively. We have a variety of programs that work towards this mission on a daily basis, and annual events that bring people together to celebrate our active community, but there are always opportunities to take a more compete and holistic view of our organizational progress, both externally and internally.

That mindset led to the creation of Sports Backers Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Council in early 2021. The purpose of the DEI Advisory Council is to develop strategies and recommendations to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture within Sports Backers and its programs and events to inspire active living in the Richmond region.

The DEI Advisory Council is made up of individuals representing all of the major Sports Backers stakeholder groups, including, but not limited to, Bike Walk RVA Champions, President’s Council Members, Board of Directors, Kids Run RVA Coaches, Fitness Warrior Instructors, Sports Backers Ambassadors, and Event Volunteers. Sports Backers staff will round out the membership with at least two employees serving on the council at all times.

Current council members include:

Katherine O’Donnell
Sports Backers Board Member
Executive Vice President, Richmond Region Tourism

Ricky Martin
Sports Backers Fitness Warriors Lead Trainer
Owner, Fit-to-Go

Angela Hayes
Sports Backers Fitness Warrior
SVP, Diversity and Inclusion, Brodeur Partners

Cheryl Groce-Wright
Sports Backers Half Marathon Training Team Head Coach
Founder & CEO, Kaleidoscope Collaborative RVA LLC

Maribel Castañeda
Sports Backers President’s Council Member
Director of Appointments and Director of Latino Outreach, Office of the Governor of Virginia

Ram Pai
Sports Backers Ambassador
President, IHR Inc.

Stephanie Kirksey
Sports Backers Event Volunteer
COO – Installment Lending, Capital One

Laura Pho
Sports Backers Bike Walk RVA Champion

Will Dixon
Chief Administrative Office, Sports Backers

Mara George
Event Production Coordinator, Sports Backers

Dion Ellis
Graphic Designer, Sports Backers

Jacki Quinlan
Director of Youth Programs, Sports Backers

So far, this founding group has worked to outline expectations for Advisory Council member participation, as well as the initial goals and objectives that the Advisory Council will work on during the first year.

And while the DEI Advisory Council has been working for less than 12 months, there are already several notable recommendations that have been put into action by Sports Backers:

  • Updating the gender options on our event registrations to include Male, Female, and Non-Binary.
  • Adding a question during the registration process aimed at better understanding the ethnic and racial makeup of our audience to inspire active living within all communities in the Richmond region.
  • Expanding our income-based rates to now include event registrations, in addition to training teams. These rates are available for anyone who qualifies and would otherwise not be able to participate.
  • Rebranding the Ashland Half Marathon, in partnership with the Richmond Road Runners Club, to reflect the event’s 15-year partnership with the Town of Ashland and promote an environment of inclusivity for participants, volunteers, and staff.

These specific recommendations, along with existing active living equity initiatives such as community-based training teams and the Fitness Warriors program, will help Sports Backers continue to work towards our mission of inspiring people from all corners of our community to live actively while fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture within our organization. And while the DEI Advisory Council remains hard at work, we welcome and encourage feedback from community members to help guide the process. Please feel free to share thoughts and ideas with us via email at [email protected].

We look forward to keeping you updated and highlighting the important work achieved by our council as we move forward.



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