Basketball courts

The South 6th Street basketball courts have been given new life. Now the organizers want to do more

In 2020, the South 6th Street basketball courts were nothing less than a public wasteland. The hoops were in shambles, some of which looked ready to topple over, and the grass seemed to ooze from the sidewalk.

But since the ground was renovated and opened in October, children have flocked to the area for impromptu games and free meals.

Mentoring children who come to the park has always been a goal for Joshua Spaulding, founder of Spaulding Sole Savers. Having five minutes of positive connection on the court can create positive paths to adulthood.

“I was born and raised in Lebanon… For me, I didn’t have anyone who looked like me to give me a five-minute conversation to change the next five years of my life,” said the young man from 27 years old. said. “My goal is just to reach as many young bucks as possible to let them know, ‘Hey, you have options, you have chances, and you have choices. “

But renovation organizers are looking to provide more services for children and make the most of the basketball court the community came together to build.

“We raised $100,000 and built the courts, and kind of took it from there to say, ‘Maybe we could do something more,'” said Mark Sevco, president of UPMC Hospitals. . “It just led to ‘Let’s try a basketball camp. Let’s try to connect and create that safe haven for kids to be in a safer environment, rely on sports (and) be surrounded by good people and mentors.

From August 10-12, the association is hosting the first Joseph P. Sevco Jr. Basketball Camp from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the importance of hard work.

“We never had a facility to run a camp, because we only had one court, and it was just an odd size,” said Sharon Zook, president of the South 6th Street Playground Association. “But it will be the first.”

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On Friday evening, August 12, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament will take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizers said teams are guaranteed to play three games if they show up, and there are games for kids and adults to worry about. on an entry fee.

“If they show up, sign up, they’ll play,” Sevco said.

Sevco, who helped spearhead the court’s renovation, will lead this camp with Scott Laicha and Veronica Fick.

“We’re really looking forward to having a tradition of annual support,” he said. “But this is our first and we are delighted with it.”

Sevco’s father, Joseph P. Sevco Jr., was an electrician with Met-Ed and was called to work overtime one day after a drunk driver knocked over a utility pole. In a tragic accident, the 12-year-old’s father was electrocuted and died.

Having a community-focused place made the difference for Sevco during a very difficult time in its life.

“For me, the playground has become a safe haven,” he said. “A place to go where I was surrounded by very ambitious or hard-working kids…I went there every day.”

Families and children depend on the playground and basketball courts as their backyard, Zook said. The number of people using the park and courts has increased over the past year.

“Having cohesive neighborhoods, where our neighbors can meet (and) their children can play together is very important,” she said. “Especially in today’s world, where there are so many stressors and it’s hard to live. It provides a space where people can come together and get to know each other.”

The South 6th Street Playground Association is hosting a day camp from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free lunch served to children from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday through August 12. All camp lunches were fully funded by various sponsors, corporations, UPMC, churches and local organizations.

The association has had an average of 70 children each week attending their summer camps. During the first two weeks of summer camps at the playground, the association served over 600 free meals.

Yensen Crespo, 12, calls the camps “refreshing”, admitting he likes having a place to play with his friends and having good food.

“You don’t like to stay indoors for long, and when you go out you can have so much energy,” he said. “That’s why I go here because there are a lot of people playing games and stuff.”

During Sevco basketball camp week, the community is invited to a potluck picnic on Thursday evening, August 11 at 6 p.m. Spaulding Sole Savers will provide back-to-school gifts for children.

The playground underwent a $250,000 renovation in 2009 with state funds. The pitch has been around since the 1960s, with improved designs by Nick Thorton of Steckbeck Engineering.

“The whole time we were doing these renovations, I was getting letters from everyone coming back and saying, ‘When I was a kid, this is where I played,'” Zook said. “They still talk about the friends they made and continue to follow them today.”

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Organizers of basketball camps and 3-on-3 tournaments aren’t looking to create the next NBA player. Rather, the goal is to promote the fundamental principles of play, while giving children and adults a greater sense of community.

“I really believe that getting together and playing on the swings and getting off the skateboard together … is going to allow people to have lifelong friendships and find jobs because they’re connected with people,” said Zook.

Anyone looking for more information on the Sevco 3 on 3 Tournament or Playground Association by emailing Sharon Zook at [email protected]

Matthew Toth is a journalist at the Lebanon Daily News. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DAMattToth.

This article originally appeared on Lebanon Daily News: South 6th Street Courts Get New Life. Now the organizers want to do more