As far as the Reds' official nonprofit is concerned, dishing out a few bucks to support Major League dreams couldn't be a more worthy cause.
"In essence, that's why we're here," said Charley Frank, the RCF's executive director. "The Reds Community Fund was established primarily to invest in Cincinnati's inner-urban communities. Baseball is our vehicle to accomplish that."
Cruising the highways and byways of Ohio, you may have noticed a growing number of Ohio license plates adorned with a Cincinnati Reds logo. They're specialty plates, which are available for a small annual fee (in addition to regular registration costs). The majority of the charitable dollars received benefit the RCF and its "Reds Rookie Success League," the organization's primary outreach program. A portion of the proceeds also benefits the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corporation.
"More than 500 area 8- to 11-year-olds took part in the Reds Rookie Success League this past summer," said Frank. "But we also want to provide support for other local teams. Whether it's a traveling winter team, girls softball, your kid's T-ball team -- any youth team that can demonstrate a minimum of 10 orders for Reds plates will receive the $250 stipend."
Getting word out about the program is a paramount concern for the RCF. Unless a minimum total of 1,000 plates is ordered by May of next year, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles can cancel the program forever. However, if the RCF can register just the minimum requirement, enough funds will be raised to bolster the size and outreach of the RRSL for years to come.
"Basically, you get to show your Reds support in a truly unique way, and at the same time, you can help support the local youth baseball community," said Frank.
The idea to produce the Reds plates actually stems from a fan e-mail the Reds Marketing department received back in 2003. Zach Bonkowski, the team's marketing operations/events coordinator, first read the e-mail and realized the potential value the idea could have for everyone involved.
"It turned out to be 18-month process," he said. "A bylaw for the plates was written that just didn't make it possible for an organization like the Cincinnati Reds to put together a program. We realized the potential benefits, though, and I worked to create a new bylaw. It took cooperation from local and statewide legislatures, the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corporation, the Cincinnati Bengals and the help of a thousand faithful Reds fans who petitioned for the creation of the Reds license plates.
"Once the program was off the ground, I definitely felt a sense of pride. I knew how much the Reds plates would mean to our diehard fans, the RCF and especially local youth baseball players."
Today, Bonkowski, fellow Reds employees and hundreds of trailblazing fans have paid the $35 fee and affixed the specialty plates to their cars. They hope others will soon follow suit.
The $250 stipends, the RCF hopes, will provide even more incentive.
Reds license plates are available through any of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles' deputy registrar offices, online at OPlates.com, or by calling (888) 752-8373. Whether you're planning to purchase a new car, renew your plates, or even if you renewed your plates just recently, the Ohio BMV has it covered. Anyone living in Ohio can quickly and easily order the Reds plates.
For more information about the Reds Community Fund or the $250 stipends, call Charley Frank at (513) 765-7231 or visit www.redscommunityfund.com.