With the rise in crime in the area, community member Josh James thought the best thing to do is to bring the kids indoors on Saturday night and give them something to do for the first of many Ball Up, Guns Down event.
“I want to show the kids in the community that someone cares, show them that I’m here, show them the community’s here and just that overall there’s an activity to do,” James said.
He said that showing the youth that the community is here and supports them was something that helped change his life when he was their age.
Hosting the event at the H.L. Neblett Community Center was the perfect place to do so as it’s a place many of the kids in the community already feel comfortable in.
And for Keith Cottoner, Executive Director of the Neblett Center that was the hope with events like this.
When Cottoner was approached, he felt like it was the perfect opportunity as this was centered around an idea that he himself wanted to host at the Center.
“I have discussed creating a safe space for kids in the community to come in and enjoy themselves … [and providing] some type of structure is always great,” Cottoner said.
The gymnasium at the Center quickly filled up with young boys from 6-year-olds to 16 and 17-year-olds. James, and a few hands, and rotated them through different Basketball drills, practicing free throws, endurance drills and many more.
James said he plans to keep more events like this in mind for the future to continually provide an outlet for the youth of the community. The next one, planned for March, will be geared to football.
“They can take everything away from you, but they can’t take your knowledge away,” James said to the crowd of boys in the gym before they started.