2013-05-29 / News

Summer Night Lights

Basketball program aimed at keeping kids out of trouble
By Elizabeth Billips

He’s hoping a basketball will keep hundreds of kids off the street.

Waynesboro vice-mayor James “Chick” Jones is back at the helm of his community program, Summer Night Lights.

With help from friends and volunteers, he plans to provide a safe haven for kids to play ball and socialize every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

But before the third annual summer of games begins on May 31, he has to get sponsors, coaches, referees and mentors.

“This has to be a community effort if we want to give our children something positive to do and keep them out of trouble,” he said. “Idle time leads to destruction, and there’s nothing else for them to do this summer.”

And the trouble, Jones said, is right on their doorsteps.

Through his work with the juvenile court system and mentoring programs, he’s sees kids as young as eight involved in gangs.

“These gangs are showing them attention, providing them with discipline and giving them love they might not be getting at home,” he explained. “If we want to save our children, we, as a community, have to come up with alternative ways to give them those same things in a constructive setting.”

Jones has already put his theory to the test. Last year, anywhere from 300-500 kids were involved in Summer Night Lights on any given weekend. Among them were gang members who abandoned their territories and played the game cooperatively.

“We know this works ... they are able to leave that mindset behind and get along with each other,” Jones said. “If these kids are playing ball in the park every night, they don’t have time to run around with a gang and cause problems.”

Beyond basketball, all the kids are encouraged to make a night of each family-oriented gathering by sticking around for a meal, mentoring and socialization.

And while the program can only keep kids busy 16 hours a week, Jones hopes other ideas and programs will spring from what he started.

“We’re playing two full courts for four hours a night and we can barely serve all the kids,” he said. “Hopefully, our churches and clubs will get involved and other things will grow from this.”

PITCH IN

Coaches, cooks, chaperones, referees and general volunteers are needed, as well as sponsors for everything from T-shirts to food and drinks. Adults are also needed to supervise activities for small children and teams that are not on the courts, like jump rope, crafts or dodge ball. For more information call Jones at 706-466-4112.

PLAY BALL

 Begins Friday, May 31  West Sixth Street public park, across from Thomas Grove Baptist Church  7-11 p.m. every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night while school is out  Boys and girls, ages 6-9, 10- 12, 13-15 and 16-18.  Families and community members of all ages are encouraged to attend

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