A summer sports program hosted at Albany State University is seeking donations from the community to keep it going for its 41st year.
Each summer, the ASU National Youth Sports Program takes in children ages 9 to 15 and connects them with ASU coaching staff to allow them to learn and play sports like swimming, basketball and volleyball. The focus isn't all sports, though. Students also work with tutors on a variety of different academic subjects.
"We have a good conglomerate of activities to occupy these young people during the summer and keep them focused until they get back to school," Jesse Massey, liaison official for the program, said. He was one of the first participants in the program when it started in 1975. Around 400 kids from Dougherty, Lee, Mitchell, and Worth and Terrell counties participate each summer, and around 25,000 have participated over the years. He says NYSP is crucial in keeping kids off the streets.
"You'll see the difference in the young people if they have a chance," he said. "We've got to give them a chance. We got to give them something to do."
Albany State University provides the facilities for the program, allowing kids to connect with the ASU campus and community.
"It gives the kids, individuals the opportunity to spend a day on a college campus and spend a day here," project director Robert Skinner said.
The program used to be federally funded along with money from city and county governments, but now those funds have dried up, making it a struggle to keep the program up and running.
On Tuesday, Liaison Officer Jesse Massey donated a $500 check to program director Robert Skinner, kicking off NYSP's two-month fundraising campaign for it's 41st year. Massey hopes other past participants will step up and do the same.
"We're looking for them to step up and help us continue the program that they started," he said.
The program is also asking other community individuals and organizations to donate. They say the program needs at least $40,000 to $50,000 to run successfully. It has had to cut back staff over the years, but organizers refuse to turn away kids who want to participate.
"This is one of those type things we are very faithful, very prayerful that it's going to get funded," Skinner said. "I've never even considered not having NYSP.in the 40 years that it's been here at Albany State, the 25 years I've been here."
Donations can be made at the NYSP GoFundMe page.