BANGOR (NEWS CENTER Maine) - It's the season of giving. During this time of year, people are looking for opportunities to give back to important programs in our communities.

Sports can play an important role in shaping and developing the kids who participate. Through sports, kids learn discipline, accountability, teamwork and communication.

Bangor YMCA organizer Jennifer Leferte-Carson says the YMCA's youth sports programs are geared towards focusing and developing "the person first, and then on the teams." In other words, building character over physical skill.

Professional beach volleyball player and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings has partnered with Dick's Sporting Goods' "Sports Matter" program to raise awareness about the importance of kids playing sports, and money for youth sports programs and teams across the country.

Walsh-Jennings says, "It's not an exaggeration to say that sports have changed my life."

Walsh-Jennings credits volleyball with shaping her to become the mother and savvy businesswoman that she is today.

"It has helped me develop myself as a human being, to know what I'm made of. It's given me the best few relationships. It's pretty incredible, the sense of belonging that comes with sports."

Without proper funding, opportunities for young kids to get involved in sports are at risk.

Walsh-Jennings says, "In this day and age when there are budget cuts left and right, usually it's afterschool sports programs are what's cut first, afterschool sports programs and P.E... When kids don't have access to sports programs, it has a negative impact on them."