GARYSBURG — Town officials in Garysburg are working to keep Roanoke Valley kids focused on positive activities and out of trouble through initiatives like the Youth Basketball League, according to Mayor Roy Bell and Town Commissioner Darryl Whittle.
“We try to give the kids something to do,” Bell said.
“If you give them somewhere they can gather, you know where they are. They’re not out walking the streets. You can gauge what is happening. When you don’t know where they are, that’s when you get concerned.” Kaearius Goode, now 19, said the program was a big benefit to him. He recalled his days in the Youth League fondly.
“I remember just waiting to get out of school to go to practice and get ready for game day,” he said. “Instead of going out and being up to no good, we had something to look forward to. It also helped us keep our grades up, because if our grades fell, we couldn’t play in the basketball league. So, we kept our grades up, and it was something to work for.”
He said he also through the League developed mentors, whom he stayed in touch with as he got older.
“My cousin worked (with the League), and so did Mr. Whittle’s son. They were people, as I got older, I looked up to as big brothers,” he said. “They kept my head straight and made sure I was doing what I had to do in and out of school.”
Goode graduated from KIPP Pride High School in 2014 and said he is now studying at Halifax Community College. He added the program and the people involved influenced his work ethic and made him think more seriously about the future.
Whittle, the commissioner in charge of recreation for Garysburg, said the league was important to local children.
“We try to give them the opportunity to do something positive,” he said. “All of them are good kids at heart, they just need the opportunity. It’s more than basketball. It’s also about life lessons.”
He added the continued success of the league, now in its 17th year, has helped produce more programs to reach a wider range of kids and bring the community together.
“This is one of the most popular programs we have,” he said. “We’ve been trying to incorporate other things. Now, kids can come do some homework before their games (at the new library).”
Children between the ages of 4 and 12 from the Roanoke Valley can sign up to play in the league, which runs from early February through April. Bell noted they get kids from Seaboard, Roanoke Rapids, Weldon and Rich Square, among others.
“It’s a Roanoke Valley thing,” he said. “When we started out, we had 50 or 60, now we have 175 kids. Once parents find out they can have somewhere for their kids to have something constructive to do, they respond.”
Bell added the Town also hosts summer programs for kids, festivals in the park in the fall and a healthy-living initiative through a grant from the Gregory B. Davis Foundation. The health initiative is about good living, he said, and they hope to add a community garden component to it. There is already a designated space for the garden; it’s just a matter of pulling everything together, he said.
These things stemmed, in part, from the positive outcome of the Youth League, according to Bell.
“Those are initiatives that came out of the Youth League (we thought) ‘OK we’ve got the kids going, let’s do something else,’” he said. “All of it is trying to get the community to come out and take advantage of some of the things we do. Hopefully there are more programs in the future.”
Whittle said programs like these wouldn’t be possible without community support and the work of volunteers.
“It would be extremely hard to do it without the help of the community,” he said. “I have to give it to the Town Board and the mayor and all of the staff and volunteers. People will come up and say, ‘I’ll do anything you need me to do.’ They show the kids they love them and care about them.”
Parents can currently sign up their children in person at Garysburg Town Hall, 504 Old Highway Road. Forms can be printed and filled out ahead of time from the league’s website: www.garysburgparksandrec.com/forms.php. The sign-up fee for Garysburg residents is $5 and $10 for non-residents.
Bell said the league is always looking for sponsors and the Town would love to have more volunteers for all of its programs.