The Maddie Potts Foundation: Celebrating and Inspiring #ForeverEleven

A candlelit vigil held six months ago began the journey of a seventeen-year-old Chariho girl’s postmortem life. Flames flickered as if in disbelief and sadness; an arduous yet comforting celebration of a spirited teenager departed too soon. Maddie Potts carried a brilliance with her everywhere she went, and that light was not dimmed by the physical borders now keeping her away.

The Maddie Potts Foundation was created to mirror the girl so many are aching to grasp in a hug, compete with on the field or have a heartfelt discussion with after the game. The foundation hopes to offer an outlet to keep the conversation going as so many continue to ponder daily: What would Maddie do?

This girl did not just impact the world in her presence, but continues, in her absence, to cast a ray of hope that inspires everyone and everything she left behind. It can’t be a coincidence that her middle name is Grace.

She wasn’t perfect, but she was silly and sincere, and she encouraged her friends to see imperfection as an avenue to becoming better. The world that took her away is certainly far from perfect, but it’s a place that can become better, and the Maddie Potts Foundation aims to help.

Generally speaking, doing good is what the foundation is all about. Every fund raised in the name of Maddie will give back to the interests that fueled her heart, such as athletics and the arts.

“The more people that hear and learn about Maddie, the more people are inspired by all that she stood for,” Maddie’s mother Stephanie Potts said. “The foundation will continue to represent this.”

Maddie Potts and family

The Potts family has been in awe of the support and love provided by a community that has become closer in the wake of Maddie’s departure. Beyond those familiar faces have been strangers expressing kindness and proving the human spirit is compassionate, caring and mindful.

“It’s impossible to make this loss better, but every single person has a role in keeping it from getting worse,” Stephanie Potts said.

Coby Myrtle’s daughter was a former teammate of Maddie and her son plays varsity soccer. She came up with the idea for the foundation to hold a prom dress drive and helped lead a successful mission by collecting 170 dresses that will be sold on April 8th. The dresses will be affordably priced at $11, $25 and $50 – and the foundation is still working to get their hands on some gently used fancy shoes and jewelry – because every girl deserves to go to prom and not every girl needs to spend a fortune to get there.

“There are so many more fundraisers planned, by people that I don’t even know and have never met Maddie,” Stephanie Potts said. “But they have learned about all she has stood for and want to give back, just like she would.”

For example, a seventh grader has taken the initiative to organize a Maddie Potts Memorial 5k Fun Run and Walk to raise money for the foundation. The race is being held on June 10th.

On April 25, Stephanie Potts will be speaking at a fundraiser in Boston called “Jeans & Jerseys.” The foundation will be auctioning as many professional and local #11 jerseys they can obtain. The funds will help support the Maddie Potts Coaching Symposia which the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), a national organization that aims to instill life skills through athletics, will be bringing to Rhode Island in the fall.

Representing good sportsmanship was important to Maddie, and these qualities stay relevant to PCA, the foundation and Maddie’s former coaches.

Another short-term goal of the foundation is to offer several $1,100 scholarships to Maddie’s graduating class of 2018. These will include a female athlete, a male athlete and an art student. Students will need to apply. Eleven characteristics that Maddie represented will be listed. Applicants will choose three of these traits, describe what they mean to them and explain how they have represented these qualities in their own lives.

The foundation is also contributing to the VASSA Award (Varsity Athletes Above Substance Abuse). The foundation will be awarding another $1,100 scholarship to the agility training group, “Higher Level, LLC.” Greg Murphy, owner, and his coaches will decide who represents Maddie’s work ethic best and choose a winner at the end of summer training.

Also this summer will be the 1st Annual Maddie Potts Fitness Challenge on August 11th, 2018 at the University of Rhode Island. Stephanie Potts and the foundation are working closely with the national organization, Positive Tracks, which involves student-led fundraisers to “Sweat for Good.” The goal is to have speed and agility cross-training, calisthenics and yoga – activities to suit all personal preferences for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The foundation hopes to get over 1,100 people through a work-out of their choice that day, and they are currently seeking corporate sponsorship and donations for water and snacks. Those interested in helping or making a donation can contact Daniel.potts@chariho.k12.ri.us or the maddiepottsfoundation@gmail.com.

As what would have been Maddie’s eighteenth birthday on April 11th nears, the foundation prepares for a celebration to honor her passion for animals. The Maddie Potts foundation will collect supplies for the East Greenwich Animal Shelter, a shelter that holds significant meaning to the family of Gianna Cirella, a fellow Rhode Island high school athlete who passed away in 2017.

Stephanie Potts and Maddie

“I can’t possibly express our thanks to the entire community, locally as well as throughout the state and particularly within athletics. We will never be able to truly repay people for this,” Stephanie Potts said. “We can only continue to carry on Maddie’s memory and legacy, by tributes and especially in all the ways that are near and dear to Maddie as well as our family. Thank you will never ever be enough.”

Eleven has always been a special number to the Potts family. Maddie Potts was born on April 11th, 2000. She was due eleven days before that. Her father, grandfather, and uncle were all born on the eleventh day of their birthday months. Maddie’s younger sister Julia also wears the number eleven as a midfielder and captain of her middle school team. Eleven is more than a number – it encompasses the confidence and the leadership qualities Maddie played with as a three-sport athlete.

While the seasons change and each sports team face the challenge of missing Maddie, students and athletes across Rhode Island can find comfort in the community her loss has built.

It isn’t a perfect place to be, but it’s a world bettered by the commitment to making #ForeverEleven an ongoing, lifetime achievement carried forward in the many hearts touched by Maddie Potts.

For more information, visit the Maddie Potts Foundation website.