Earlier this week – on Martin Luther King Day – the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA launched a new initiative that aims to bring engaging play to the children of our community.
The initiative is called “Y on Wheels” and it provides kids in targeted neighborhoods an opportunity to participate in organized games, learn basic sports skills from positive community role models, and engage in fun and safe after-school activities.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a YMCA kid who grew up to become one of the most influential and inspiring figures in the civil rights movement. The Y’s announcement – made on the day of service — is a way to honor King’s life and teachings by engaging in community action that continues to solve social problems, said Abigail Weaver, vice president of advancement at the YMCA.
“Many children in our under-served neighborhoods have nowhere to go after school. They go home to empty houses and have no access to the physical activity, healthy snacks and positive influences that they need to grow into their potential,” Weaver said. “The Kingsport YMCA strives to fill gaps in our community, and the Y on Wheels program will serve as a stepping stone towards healthier lives in these neighborhoods.”
The Y on Wheels program will begin in the Dogwood Terrace Apartments, as requested by a Kingsport City Schools’ principal and knowledgeable school liaison. The program will bring sports equipment, healthy snacks and caring staff to talk, teach and play with the kids on a regular schedule, beginning on Thursday afternoons.
Kids will learn valuable life skills and get the activity they need to have safe and responsible fun.
“Next week when the program gets in full swing, lots of school-age children will be given access to exciting and engaging activities that will help them learn academic and social skills without leaving their own community,” said Jaclyn Clendenen, Jackson Elementary School liaison. “Each mentor met the parent or grandparent and children with a genuine willingness to form a positive relationship and that engagement was really exciting to see. I can’t wait to watch this program grow.”
After-school programs can boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe, structured environment. The Kingsport YMCA plans to focus more efforts on intentional youth and teen programming in the community in 2019, paying attention to creative ways to be helpful to kids and families.
“We are excited to get outside our Y walls and to reach neighborhoods and kids who might not have been exposed to the positivity of the Y yet. By going to them, we can learn what they need and want and how the Y can help encourage them,” said Regan Pierce, senior director of youth development for the YMCA.