The Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department launched a sports equipment exchange program for families in the area who have kids who play in the city leagues.

The program was the idea of James and Melissa Brown, a Heights couple who know firsthand what it costs for children to be involved in sports. “We have two kids who both play sports in Harker Heights, and we know how expensive it is to buy equipment,” Melissa Brown said. “And they outgrow it so fast.”

When the Browns were growing up, their own families had no extra money for either sports or equipment, she said. And since their 8-year-old son Jaden started playing sports, they donated his outgrown equipment to other families in need at the end of each season.

But they decided to take it up a notch and approached the parks and recreation department with their idea for the sports exchange program. Director Jerry Bark and his staff embraced the idea and began putting the program together with the help of the Browns.

“Melissa Brown and her husband came to our office and said they wanted to do the program,” said Sam Hanie, athletic coordinator. “They got Prospector Self Storage to donate a storage unit and got lumber from Harker Heights lumber to build shelves.”

The program — dubbed CHHEEP for City of Harker Heights Equipment Exchange Program — kicked off with an equipment drive on Jan. 26 at Prospector Self Storage. Although attendance was light, Brown said they did get some equipment and are off to a good start. Donation boxes are also in place at the Harker Heights Recreation Center, 307 Miller’s Crossing, and Prospector, 800 Prospector Trail, Killeen.

The winter soccer season will begin soon, so shin guards, cleats and soccer balls are especially needed, along with good, gently used sports clothing. But all sports equipment for children ages 4-14 will be accepted at all times.

Anyone who donates gets first pick of the equipment during scheduled distributions and can put in reservations for needed gear, hence, the exchange part of the program.

“We hope some of this will ease the (financial) burden some people have when their kids play sports,” Hanie said.

Families that do not donate are still welcome to choose equipment on a first come, first served basis. The first distribution will be from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 16 at Prospector.

For more information about CHHEEP, call the Parks and Recreation Department at (254) 953-5657.

Contact Kristi Johnson at or (254) 501-7548

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