Leslie Gross owes her "Most Physically Fit Senior Girl" title from high school to her love of athletics.
As a young girl, Gross, of Manhasset, participated in every sport available to her: badminton, basketball, field hockey, track, swimming, gymnastics and cheerleading.
Roger Kahn, 58, of New Rochelle, is a world-class swimmer who has been involved in sports his entire life. He is one of the top 10 swimmers in the world in the 55-59 age group.
Gross' and Kahn's love of sports has benefited the Children's Sport Connection, a Garden City-based group that helps children maintain their link to sports by providing them with the equipment and funds they need to play.
Founder and executive director Patricia D'Accolti said the organization's existence would not have been possible without the help of many key volunteers, but particularly Gross and Kahn.
Gross, 62, strongly encouraged D'Accolti -- whom she met at a luncheon for a domestic violence organization -- to start the nonprofit.
"Being on a sports team can be such a positive experience . . . especially for kids that are going through a hard time," Gross said. "The things that you learn from working with a coach and being on a team . . . those skills build your character. You learn how to work together with others, to work towards a goal, to try hard, . . . to lose gracefully. You learn to not quit."
Once the organization was up and running in 2005, Gross sat on its board until 2007, when she was elected clerk of the Town of North Hempstead. She continues to advise D'Accolti, recruit volunteers and new partners and associations, and also coordinates fundraising events and sports equipment drives.
Kahn, president of Champion Office Suites in Garden City, joined Children's Sport Connection's board about two years ago. He offers the group free office space, telephone and reception services, stores sports equipment until it is ready to be distributed and also helps give it away.
"I like helping children stay involved in sports when they might otherwise not be able to," he said.