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'Bridging the gap' by playing ball

Softball event builds trust, rapport between kids and first responders
Aug. 11, 2014 @ 06:32 PM

The game had more or less every traditional baseball accoutrement — bats, a ball, gloves, a cheering crowd, even a little bit of trash talk.

The players, though, were a little different. Children teamed up with Lee County sheriff’s deputies and Emergency Services personnel for a special community outreach event.

County law enforcement officers and emergency responders collaborated with members of the Boys & Girls Club and their parents at O.T. Sloan Park Monday evening on a softball game as part of Badges for Baseball, a national program based in the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The foundation hosted its first annual Cal Sr. Day across the country with similar games and other events.

T.C. Cox, an employee with the Boys & Girls Club who brought Badges for Baseball to Sanford, said it was a perfect way to honor Cal Ripken Sr., the father of Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

He also said the club wanted to help change the perception of law enforcement in the county by reaching young kids.

"Recently, around the country, everybody seems to think how corrupt officers are,” Cox said. "It can absolutely just change the whole focus of our perspective on law enforcement. All law enforcement isn't bad, they're here to help us. They can be athletes and have fun and play.”

Ashley Young, club parent, made a similar statement about the importance of bringing these two groups together.

"The city of Sanford has this persona of our urban community against law enforcement and emergency responders,” she said. "This is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the two, to put a face to the organization.”

Sitting in the "home” dugout were Sheriff Tracy Carter and Maj. Carlton Lyles of the Lee County Sheriff's Department. Both spoke of the need for kids to connect to authority figures in this way.

Carter said what they were doing is "actually community policing.”

"It's good for the community; it's good for the young people to see us out here interacting like this,” he said. "They need to see that we care about them and that we're here to help them and [in] a different role than just out here riding around looking for people to arrest, which is part of what we do and they understand that, too. We all act as role models at times with young people, and that's what we're trying to do today.”

The Sheriff's Department brought out a K-9 dog for children to interact with, while a fire truck also was on site. Kids climbed in the truck, and a couple even tried on a firefighter’s uniform.

Lyles emphasized the importance of kids seeing the everyday side of law enforcement.

"What it does is it gives the kids a chance to see that we're human, too,” he said.

As cheers, claps and trash talk rang out from the field, Carter and Lyles cheered on their colleagues and the kids.

But their status for the contest? Questionable.

"A man's got to know his limitations, and I can shake hands and smile and talk with the kids, but I’m going to let my younger officers do this,” Carter said. "I think they'll represent us a lot better.”

Nobody kept score. The score wasn't the point.

"It's not anyone against anyone (really),” Young said, "it’s more of them mentoring the youth and them playing with each other.”



Volunteers Wanted!

We are currently seeking volunteers for the Boys & Girls Club .Volunteers are asked to dedicate at least 1 hour for one day a week to the BGC. Each volunteer will be screened (criminal background and drug test) and asked to attend an orientation. The volunteer can choose to volunteer one on one or with a group of kids. There is plenty of things you can do to help volunteer. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please come by the O.T. Sloan Unit and fill out an application. 

      Great Futures Start Here!


Boys & Girls Club Honors Youth Award Winners!
A packed house waited in prolonged silence Thursday night, finally bursting into applause as Markiah McEachin, a 15 year old freshman at Lee County High School won the Youth of the Year title.

A high school freshman who already has college plans, more than 100 hours of volunteer work and a leadership position with the Boys and Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County, Markiah McEachin has been named the club's Youth of the Year.

McEachin was given the award at the club's annual awards banquet held earlier this week, in which she beat six other local high school students competing for the award, which comes with a chance to compete for the state national Youth of the Year awards. Other nominees were Ce'Vaun Kiney, Gabreille Holmes, Jose Andino, Ravon Davis, Isaiah Monroe and Shantel Bennett.

McEachin, a ninth grader at Lee County High School is the first member of the club's Church Street branch to win the award. The Church Street director, Dana Ellis, said she was overjoyed when she found out McEachin was the winner.

"She has kind of been like my understudy for the last three years, since I've been with the club," Ellis said. "She started off volunteering, and I noticed out of all the volunteers we had, she would always take initiative with different duties. I wouldn't ask her, she'd just do it."

McEachin is now on the club's junior staff and works as membership manager for the Church Street club. She also belongs to outside groups like Phenomenal Girls, Torch Club and Keystone.

"Markiah also has a really bright personality," Ellis said. "Even when she's having a bad day, you really can't tell. ... She's just an outstanding club member. I always tell her she's not the typical teenager. Most teenagers are selfish and want things their way, but she's always looking out for others."

As part of the ceremony Thursday night at the club's main location at O.T. Sloan Park, each of the seven finalists had to give a speech to the crowd with the theme of "I have a great future" and why that is.

"I have a great future because I am determined to accomplish my goals and overcome every obstacle that comes my way," McEachin said in part of her speech.

In a biography the club wrote about her, it said McEachin "has overcome many obstacles and continues to break barriers," and that she wants to attend either N.C. State University or Wake Forest University and study nursing or political science.

In addition to winning the Youth of the Year award, which is the club's highest honor and is based on character, achievement and interviews with a panel of judges, McEachin was also one of three club members to be awarded the Presidential Volunteer Award.

The club gave out dozens of other local awards throughout the night for everything from academics (both best and most improved) to art and athletics, as well as the Dr. Gus Oelrich Award for outstanding character and leadership. That award went to Gabrielle Judd.

In between the awards and speeches by Youth of the Year candidates, the club also gave the floor to others for speeches, including outgoing president David Ellerby, incoming president Sherry Shudra and N.C. Sen. Ronald Rabin, who has supported the club financially and through a page program at the capitol.

"I advertise this place whenever I can because I had a similar place growing up, teaching us kids how to be well-behaved, good kids," Rabin, a Republican in his first term representing Lee and Harnett counties, said. "... While I am doing what I'm doing, and after that, the Boys and Girls Club will always have my support."

Rabin spoke to the crowd — and especially the children gathered in the audience — and presented a gift of flags that have flew over the capitol building. The retired Army colonel told them to always honor the values of hardiness and valor (red), purity and innocence (white) and vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue) that the flag colors represent. He also reminded them of the state motto, which translated from Latin means, "To be, rather than to seem."

Ellerby, in his goodbye speech, said his time on the board had its own ups and downs but that overall he and his fellow board members had fun and came away proud. And addressing the Youth of the Year candidates, he said he stood in awe of their courage and public speaking abilities.

"It's not easy," he said. "When I was small, you'd have to pro me up to get me in front of a crowd."

Shudra, who took over as president of the club's board of directors Oct. 1, said she was itching to get to work and honored the new and returning board members.

But the focus of the night, despite everything else happening, was the Youth of the Year. In her acceptance speech, McEachin told the crowd she couldn't have done it alone and was especially grateful to her mom and the club for believing in and supporting her.

Ellis and McEachin were both called away from the club for other commitments Friday, the day after the awards, so they missed the cake and balloons that were waiting for them. But the excitement will definitely still be there when they return, Ellis said, adding that for McEachin, it'll probably be just another day.

"Markiah is just so humble," Ellis said. "She won't let this get to her head, either."
Article Courtesy of Will Doran, Sanford Herald

















Want your kids to have a positive place to join and feel like they are a part of something? Look no further! Sign your kids up for the Boys & Girls Club!

There are always things happening at the Club. Be a part of one of our many programs. Be a part of a group.. for more information, please contact Timir Cox at 919-776-3525 (O.T. Sloan Site Program Aid) or Dana Ellis-Petty at 919-776-6304 (Church Street Site Sr. Unit Director). 

School year membership fee: $32.00 a year! In addition to a $20/enrollment fee
Summer membership fee: $25/weekly (Breakfast and Lunch included)

Homework help is offered every Monday through Thursday from 3:45-4:45. This is called "Power Hour." After homework, the kids are in age groups and rotate to their different areas. Some of the areas include: Gamesroom, Art Department, Gym, and our Education Department where our specialty programs are run like Hooked on Phonics and Phenomenal Girls. We also have a Middleschool Room and a Teen Center dedicated to our older members. 

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