As a practicing attorney, running a youth athletic program while being a stay-at-home dad probably seemed unlikely. So was the notion of battling cancer at a young age.
But Rob Elkins, the volunteer sports program director at the , now does all three.
Elkins, a 47-year-old father of two daughters who would later sell an internet company that would provide a financial cushion, realized back in 1988 that he hated practicing law. While dining with his wife Anne he decided he needed to do something more satisfying.
“I looked at my wife and said, ‘I’m miserable doing what I’m doing. I hate it, I absolutely hate it,’” Elkins noted.
After Elkins graduated from Queens College before he attended law school at the University of Bridgeport, he worked full-time job for two years as the sports director at the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck.
“When I graduated from law school I realized what I really missed was working with kids and being involved with kids and coaching,” Elkins said. At the time, Elkins' daughter began a program through the . After a couple of seasons, "I realized the program wasn’t right for her,” he said, noting that other families might also be seeking alternatives for their children.
Elkins decided to form a girl’s travel softball team. He approached PAL and after only one season of his running the team, he was asked to run the whole program.
“I refer to this as my full-time hobby,” Elkins said. “If my income was going to affect my family lifestyle, I would have worked longer."
A series of circumstances also sparked Elkins’ decision to become a stay-at-home dad to Danielle, now 12, and Sydney, now 6. He and his wife Anne, a media investment director, knew things had to change when their nanny suffered a heart attack when his eldest was still a tot.
Something had to change.
“My wife has a fantastic job and I said, ‘You know what? We have enough money in the bank, we have enough cash-flow coming in, and I’d much rather be home with the kids,’” Elkins said.
But life took another turn.
In 2009 Elkins was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had his prostate removed that December.
He said the recovery stage has not gone so well, and is starting radiation treatment to eliminate any remaining cancer.
“At the same time there is a fairly strong likelihood that they’re going to have to take out part of my kidney,” Elkins said. “So in the middle of all that, working full-time just wasn’t really fitting into my life.”
Elkins, a Port Washington resident since 1998, points out that he's chosen not to work and wasn’t forced into volunteering. But his efforts have helped grow PAL. Back in 2009, PAL had one team with about 10 girls. Fast forward to 2011.
"This current fall we have a 10-year-old team, a 12-year-old team and a 14-year-old team and we have 47 kids, which is more than double the size of the whole program when I took over,” Elkins said.
Elkins aims to further develop the sports program, which grew from one T-ball team and a boy’s baseball team to expanding the T-ball team, introducing soccer, volleyball, basketball and bringing in professional coaches to further the kid’s skills.
To date 500 kids are enrolled in PAL, though of that number, some are playing more than one sport and in multiple seasons.
“There is a huge level of satisfaction in watching your kids succeed,” Elkins said. “To be able to watch a large group of kids in the community just bond is really, really nice," he added. "That’s the reward.”