Upward: More Than Just a Game

“Upward Sports is the best story that’s never been told,” said Kevin Drake, the new Executive Director of the 25-year-old organization whose Upward Star Center has become a fixture on the Highway 29 corridor between Spartanburg and Wellford.

Kevin, his wife Deborah and their children Jordan, 26, Nicholas, 24, Luke, 16, and Emily, 13, are members of Church at The Mill.  Kevin is a Spartanburg native and business management graduate of Gardner-Webb University. Over the last 25 years, he has been a publisher and president for a multitude of newspapers in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. Kevin and his family returned to the Spartanburg area in 2016, after transferring to Lakeland, Florida in 2013. When they returned to the Upstate, Kevin became a regional newspaper publisher in the Carolinas.

Kevin currently serves in the Goodtree Café, is active in the community and on mission trips, and co-teaches a Sunday morning adult small group.  It was in that small group that a simple prayer request changed the direction of his life.

Small group member Bill Palmer announced that he was stepping down from the Executive Director position at Upward and requested prayer for someone to take his place.  Kevin felt called to apply and began his new role with Upward in May. Kevin said, “I love sports and I love Jesus. I felt that God was calling me to this position.”

Upward Sports is more than just a big building and a number of great sports programs. Since its inception in 1995, this national organization has grown to have employees all over the United States, partnerships with 1,200 churches, and a profound impact in using sports to reach approximately seven million children with the Gospel.  Here in Spartanburg, they host over 35 tournaments and events, including Hispanic League Basketball, Spartanburg Christian Academy football games, Wofford soccer camps, Southeast Wheelchair Basketball Tournaments and Byrnes Cheer Competitions.  However, an emphasis on Upward’s partnership with churches is at the core of its future.

Traditionally, Upward Sports partners with churches to provide programming for children to participate in sports leagues. This enables churches to bring families in their communities to their campuses to reach them for Christ.  Kevin’s vision encompasses something more far-reaching with a goal to provide opportunities for children in lower economic levels and diverse ethnic areas.  A pilot program is already underway involving the Boys and Girls Club.

Kevin has nothing but praise for the work done by Upward’s founders and for its Board of Directors. He describes its members as “diverse and godly” and “the best I’ve ever seen.” As for Kevin and his vision for Upward, his quote from a recent press release says it best:

“Sports are a powerful and unifying tool that people of all backgrounds, socioeconomic situations, religions and ethnicities can appreciate.  For 25 years, Upward Sports has been a trusted partner to churches seeking to leverage the power of sports to reach their communities, and I’m excited to be part of what God is doing through this ministry.”

The “best story never told” has its best adventures ahead as Upward Sports honors God, loves people and works with churches to encourage communities with the heart and message of the Gospel.

 

-Debbie Robinson

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Upward: More Than Just a Game

“Upward Sports is the best story that’s never been told,” said Kevin Drake, the new Executive Director of the 25-year-old organization whose Upward Star Center has become a fixture on the Highway 29 corridor between Spartanburg and Wellford. Kevin, his wife Deborah and their children Jordan, 26, Nicholas, 24, Luke, 16, and Emily, 13, are…

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