During a time of major cutbacks, one charity still delivers smiles to troubled teens...and encourages positive personal goals and teamwork.
It has not been an easy couple years for most local non-profits as budgets have been cut and consumers have tightened their grips on their wallets. But one local non-profit has been growing substantially and continues to deliver valued services to kids and families in need. Next month, Success 4 Kids & Families will run their 19th annual Leonard Shearer March Madness Basketball Tournament in Tampa. Kids with emotional and behavioral problems who attend schools without organized sports programs have a chance to play in this tournament.
"This is the first time all year-and for some, maybe the first time in their lives-that they get to play in a normal school sports program. These are kids that often don't get a chance to compete in team sports-so I love the theme they came up with this year" says Clara Reynolds, Executive Director of S4KF, "Teamwork...Don't Wish for it, Work for it!"
Six schools without intramural sports will participate this year, up from four in years past. In order to be eligible to participate in the event, each student must have good attendance, behave appropriately and engage successfully in school. In addition to the student athletes, all students at those schools can also participate by submitting an original piece of artwork or essay supporting the theme. As in years' past- the artwork will be featured on Success 4 Kids & Families webpage (S4KF.org) as well as YouTube. Hundreds of pictures, dozens of art exhibits, and a video about last year's tournament are also available to view on the webpage.
"This is our signature event-and the kids absolutely love it," says Reynolds. After the tournament, there is an awards presentation banquet held at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, where the kids receive lunch, hear motivational speeches and are recognized for their accomplishments. For the second year in a row, Tampa Police Department Chief Jane Castor, former University of Tampa graduate and basketball scholarship recipient, will speak to the young people about the pivotal role that higher education and sports had in shaping her life.
"This is the first time many of these kids have ever been to a ‘sit-down restaurant'- let alone a fine dining establishment like Columbia-so this is a big deal for them" says Reynolds, "Chief Castor will be able to help these young folks to understand the value of sports and an education and how they both can lead to a successful future. We are very thankful to Chief Castor and all the organizations that have made this possible."
Last year, one of the student essays explained the importance of this event. "We all may feel a little out place some times, but all young people just need to be put back on track. It's ok to ask for help-don't feel uncomfortable we all make mistakes. That's how we become a success by learning from our mistakes." (Cassandra G., 12th grade)
The game has grown into a major tournament for students with emotional disturbances from various local schools with the help of local businesses such as Hillsborough County Public Schools, Columbia Restaurant, Jesuit High School, Hillsborough County Department of Children's Services, the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, and Caspers Company/McDonald's Restaurants. This year, Caspers Company is donating breakfast to the school that sells the most raffle tickets for the game.
This year, we're proud to announce that Tampa Police Chief Jayne Castor will be reprising her role of keynote speaker for this year's awards banquet.