Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona

Sandwiches are helping to save the day of area youth

By Alison Bailin Batz

Several local Subway franchisees were at a cross roads in 1999.

The brand had been growing in the Arizona market since 1983. Given their successes, while the franchisees were fulfilling as many food donations for local charities as possible, they wondered how they might do more.

Although it had never been done by a market, brand leaders banded to start a nonprofit to help at-risk kids gain access to sports. 

“We wanted to support kids in sports because we all believed that basic sports skills — teamwork, commitment and accountability — could help them throughout their lives,” says Mark Roden, a long-time franchisee. “So, 20 years ago this year, Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona was born.”

The organization started out small, hosting a golf tournament with vendors, partners and fellow Subway owners and managers to raise funds so it might launch a grant program in town.

“At the very beginning, we had high hopes to help a handful of nonprofits in need,” Roden says. “We never imagined all these years later we would have touched the lives of more than 60,000 families and given away more than $1 million.”

But, as of this year, they’ve done just that.

With long-time partners like West Liberty Foods, Coca-Cola, Mobivity, Shamrock, Craftmark, Food Services of American, HMA Public Relations and Proof Advertising, the small group of franchisees has transformed into a multifaceted volunteer-led assistance organization for nonprofits that is helping Arizona children.

“Today, we primarily give back in two ways: our grant program and Cycle for Success,” says Chad Barnett, a North Valley Subway franchisee and Subway Kids & Sports board member. 

Subway Kids & Sports Grant Program

Through a months-long vetting process, each year Subway Kids & Sports donates an estimated $50,000 to 75,000 to child-focused nonprofits that are helping get at-risk kids access to sports and sports programming.

“This is probably the hardest thing we have to do each year,” says Barnett, noting they get upward of $200,000 to 250,000 in grant request dollars annually. “But it is followed, thankfully, by one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever been a part of.”

Barnett is referring to the time spent late each summer approving and granting as many donations as they can.

Just some of the recent recipients of recent Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona grant include:

Lions Camp Tatiyee, which provides children with intensive special needs a summer camp experience focused on improving emotional health, confidence and independence, entirely free. 

Arizona Burn Foundation’s Camp Courage, a summer camp for child burn survivors ages 6 to 15.

Candlelighters of Southern Arizona, a therapeutic summer camp program for children who are undergoing multiyear battles with blood cancer and other blood-related disorders. 

Frances H. McClelland Pediatric Rehabilitation Center, which was in need of a Saebo Mobile Arm Support (SaeboMAS) machine to help more than 500 children in need of acute physical rehabilitation after traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries.

The Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association, who used its most recent grant to purchase a court sport chair for its Junior Wheelchair Suns program.

Girls on the Run, who have a national partnership with Asics shoes, allowing them to purchase brand new running shoes for $25. The most recent grant allowed them to purchase nearly 200 pairs of shoes for girls in need.

Cycle for Success

Beyond grant donations, Subway Kids & Sports partners with the Be Kind People Project, Subway Restaurants of Arizona, Dasani and Shamrock Farms on a local program called Cycle for Success.

“Through this program, local teachers are asked to nominate students performing good deeds both inside and outside of the classroom,” Roden says. “Each month, we then ride into several of the classrooms and surprise committee-chosen students with bikes, helmets and locks, as well as Subway lunches for the entire class.”

The Cycle for Success program has been operating for more than a decade and focuses on increasing children’s self-esteem, encouraging the community to become involved in the lives of at-risk children and promoting random acts of kindness in local schools.

“During the winter and summer months when school isn’t necessarily in session, we also work with organizations that have bigger groups of kids performing random acts of kindness so we can make Cycle for Success happen on a grander scale,” Roden says.

Last winter, the organization worked with the Boys & Girls Club in Flagstaff to provide bikes, helmets, locks and a party for all of the children at the club who didn’t have bicycles.

“Believe it or not, there were about 80 amazing kids who never had their own bikes,” Barnett says. “We were immeasurably proud to change that!”


None of the group’s good works would be possible without a fair share of fundraising.

“Our primary method (of) raising funds comes each October at our two-day Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona Golf Tournament and Top Golf Takeover presented by West Liberty Foods. Now try to say that five times fast,” Barnett says.

This year, the event will take place October 15 and October 16. First, Subway Kids & Sports board members plan to “take over” an entire floor at Topgolf Scottsdale on day one for a friendly competition and massive auction. Then on day two, they will move over to the nearby Talking Stick Golf Club for a traditional golf tournament and 20th anniversary celebration.

“And you are all invited, for a donation, of course,” says Barnett, before sharing the organization is seeking auctions item donations and golfers for both events.


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