Members of every team in the Dakota Ridge Youth Basketball league did more than work up a sweat on the court this year. The kids volunteered on community projects ranging from helping to clean up Water’s Edge Park and Coal Mine Avenue to writing letters to soldiers.
“The kids are already involved in their community through basketball; the projects help to strengthen this connection as the kids give back and see the positive impact of their service,” said Felicia Randall, community service coordinator for Dakota Ridge.
Randall said that while teams have volunteered in the community on their own, this was the first year the entire league volunteered for service projects. She said the projects for each team were specifically chosen for the age groups, ranging from third to eighth grades, to make sure it would be something the kids connected with as well as enjoyed.
“Our team had a blast writing the letters to the soldiers,” said Ella McFarland, 9, whose team wrote letters to active members of the military. “We had a letter-writing party at Yogurtland, and everyone shared supplies and ideas.”
The letters Ella and her teammates wrote were part of the Thanks a Million campaign, a year-round program to get people stateside to write letters of thanks and encouragement to active military personnel.
“The girls wrote poems, general thank-you sentiments, funny stories and pictures to hopefully get the message across that they are grateful and thankful for the soldiers’ dedication to our country,” said Cathy McFarland, Ella’s mother and the team manager. “Before the girls got started, we talked about where servicemen and -women might be and what they might be doing to protect our country.”
Yet the service projects weren’t all letters and yogurt. Several groups cleaned up area streets.
“I was surprised by all the trash there was to pick up,” said Nick Parrish, a fifth-grader whose team paired with two other teams to clean up Coal Mine Avenue from West Bowles Avenue to South Ward Street. “It was fun. It was good to help the environment.”
“The kids were a bit hesitant at first, but then once they got started, it became more fun for them,” said Kincaid Bimler, Nick’s coach. “The kids initially weren’t very enthusiastic, but my assistant coach had the idea of making it a competition. The winning group got to opt out of a running drill whenever they wanted, so they were really into it after that.”
Randall said the league plans to continue participating in service projects throughout the South Jeffco community next season.
“It is important for the kids to experience that they can and do have an effect on their community,” Randall said.
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.