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Local InterestMidnight Basketball... Scores Success for YouthBY KELLY BOLES CHAPMAN, Senior Consultant, BCCFThe Midnight Basketball program in Battle Creek began this spring with the energy of Cool People Community Savers and their leadership, Keith and Jonathan Matthews. The success of the program has been a tribute to the collab- oration of organizations committed to the health and safety of the youth in our community. The Battle Creek Communi- ty Foundation is the fiduciary and finan- cial incubator of the program; the Battle Creek YMCA, provides the site and pro- gram delivery; and the Battle Creek City Police, provides a healthy connection to law enforcement.The program is offered in six to ten week blocks on Friday evenings from 9pm to midnight at the YMCA’s Multi Sports Complex in downtown Battle Creek. The program is free and is de- signed for youth from middle to high school. A significant goal of the program is to give our youth a safe place to go to have healthy fun. While it began with basketball on three courts, it has ex- panded to include a variety of additional activities such as cardio drumming and swimming. The Battle Creek YMCA is committed to providing leadership in engaging youth and their families in a healthy lifestyle. As part of the posi- tive youth development, kids can enjoy a different selection of foods during the evening ranging from fruits and veggies to snacks and pizza. It’s something dif- ferent each Friday. Battle Creek Public Schools has helped with providing food during the evening.The program continues to see an av- erage of 175 middle to high school youth each week. All kids need to do is arrive. On occasion, younger siblings have come along and parents are welcome to stay. Visits from the Battle Creek City Police give the youth an opportunity to interact with law enforcement in a pos- itive way. At the end of the evening we are able to send kids home full, tired, and flooded with good endorphins from ex- ercising. The next thing on their agenda will be a great night’s sleep.Transportation is not provided. Par- ents generally drop off and pick up their kids. Some that live nearby ride bikes.Cool People volunteers also help youth to get home.Kids find out about the program pri- marily though word of mouth. Cool People works hard to share information about the program and to invite kids to participate. And of course, once the kids have a fun-filled evening they are quick to share it with friends.The program is re-evaluated in blocks and now is the time to meet to examine successes and challenges and identify ways to create a long-term, sustainable program. A continued outcome is to con- tinue to meet the needs of area youth, but also help them to see new potential for their future. Comments from participants confirm that this program is making an impact. One student that was previous- ly afraid of the water was finally able to take the plunge and as a result ended the evening by saying, “Thank you for be- lieving in me.”The program has limitless possibilities. The future direction is being determined now. One thing is for certain, continued support from the community will be neces- sary to help it thrive. Volunteers are needed every week. A minimum of 10-15 adults help the programs to run smoothly. Finan- cial support is always welcome. Skilled instructors are needed. The potential exists to expand programming beyond sports for those that have different interests as well. That might mean the expansion of the con- cept toward a passport to wellness that in- cludes developing additional skill sets such as food preparation, first aid skills, fitness training, yoga, and so much more.This program is changing lives through micro-programming. One youth and one family at a time. Consider join- ing the efforts.For more details contact the Battle Creek Community Foundation at (269) 962-2181.VETERANS ISSUE I SCENE 4310 33

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