Kids tipping off a game in HPER gym (Source: WALB)
Robert Skinner officiating a basketball game (Source: WALB)
The camp isn't all sports. Kids attend around 3 classes per day (Source: WALB)
Jesse Massey enjoys running the camp too much to let it go away (Source: WALB)
Girls learning a few dance moves in the aerobics room (Source: WALB)
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
The National Youth Sports Program took a huge financial hit when the Government stopped funding it in 2004.
Albany State has one of the lone surviving programs, with a special thanks to two passionate men. Money is low, but energy is at an all-time high in HPER gym.
The National Youth Sports Program is in its 41st year providing a free summer camp for kids.
The always energetic Jesse Massey has been a huge piece of the puzzle since it started in 1975, and it's easy to see why.
"I see folks that I taught that was in the program," he said. "Now their kids and grand kids are in the program so that's a message to me that I'm getting older."
608 kids registered for the summer camp this year from throughout South Georgia.
Massey says around 475 come on a daily basis, and his eyes light up every morning when the kids get dropped off.
"When you see that kid get off that bus or when they get out of that car with their mom and you see that kid smiling, he's running, he knows he's going to get a breakfast, he knows he's going to get lunch."
Food is just the tip of the iceberg. Tuesday morning kids learned how to write business plans, practiced dance routines, played full-court basketball and splashed around in the pool.
Albany State provides the facilities, and many of its employees make up the staff.
Women's basketball and volleyball coach Robert Skinner serves as the camp director and is thankful for the school's support, but wishes he had similar support from local government.
"It gets frustrating at times that you see other programs in the city receiving funding from the city and county government and then you've numerous times gone to them and still been turned down," said Skinner.
The program has provided camp shirts for the campers every summer for the past 41 years. If they don't receive donations soon, this may be the first summer the kids go without them.
"I've really enjoyed working with these kids," said Massey. "I've even donated my own resources to help this program keep going."
He nor Skinner will let the program die because of what it means to the community.
"A lot of the kids can't afford to go to the YMCA," reminded Skinner. "(They) can't afford to go to the Boy's and Girls club so they come here."
The camp has a GoFundMe to raise money for shirts this year and camps for years to come.