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Youth club, church link up for Fun Day in neighborhood

June 11, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN

The reason for the smile on Amonte Williams' face was obvious.

He was playing basketball.

"This is what I love to do," he said, coming off the court to take a break. "This is what I do every day - shoot hoops."

On Saturday, Amonte, 8, had an opportunity to play in an organized game. He also took part in basketball drills, as well as a skills competition. "Hopefully, I'll learn some new stuff today," he said.

It was all part of Fun Day, co-sponsored by Otterbein United Methodist Church and the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County.

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The event, which took place in Otterbein's parking lot, also featured arts and crafts, dancing and food. Activities were geared to children ages 6 through 18.

The idea for an afternoon of fun and games didn't come about overnight, said Cindy Brown, director of programs at Otterbein.

"For years, we've been wanting to offer a structured event for kids," Brown said. "We have the parking lot and a great deal of space, but not the staffing."

So Brown said she approached the local Boys & Girls Club about co-sponsoring the program.

"The reaction was positive right from the start," Brown said. "Their desire to work with area youth merged with ours, and this is the result."

Brown said many of the young people who attended Fun Day probably already are acquainted, since Otterbein and the Boys & Girls Club currently play each other in basketball.

"Basketball actually was the catalyst for jointly expanding to other areas," said Mike Loving, unit director for the Boys & Girls Club at Elgin Station.

"We are always reaching out to youth in the community," he said. "So we were excited to be a part of this event. It was a great way to bring our resources together."

Brown said she was unsure how many children would participate in Fun Day, but with the church's primary focus on neighborhood children and the club's focus on children throughout the county, "We should have a good turnout."

Organizers are hoping to make this a regular summer event.

"Today is guinea pig day," said Buck Browning, director of operations with the Boys & Girls Club. "We'll see how things go today and, hopefully, this will be a monthly program."

Browning called the co-sponsored event a "grass-roots operation."

"This is the way it's supposed to be - working together to help kids develop into productive citizens," he said.

"There's a need for programs like this in our community and, with Otterbein, we're going to meet that need."

Clair Baker, a church member who works with Otterbein's neighborhood basketball program, thought Fun Day was a great opportunity for young people to make new friends and have a good time in an organized setting.

"Otterbein sits on the biggest piece of open space in the neighborhood," he said. "It's the perfect place to bring kids together."

Brown said the church has offered programs for local youth in the past, including a Spring Fling and Cool Fridays.

"Little by little, we've been building to something like this," Brown said. "We consider this a neighborhood ministry. We're not just a building. We're a living part of this neighborhood. And what we're doing today is part of being a good neighbor."

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