Basketballs from U of M empower inner-city kids
A wide smile crossed the face of James Florendo as he talked about receiving a new piece of sports equipment.
“Getting a basketball is amazing,” said the Grade 6 student from Pinkham School. “I love basketball – it’s everything to me.”
James is one of almost 600 Winnipeg School Division students who received a ball this year as part of Basketballs for Inner-City Kids. The program, run by the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Office of Community Engagement, hands out basketballs to graduating Grade 6 students at 16 schools.
Karen Cook, co-lead, Office of Community Engagement, said providing balls to the students is a way of acknowledging their graduation to middle school and giving them access to affordable recreation so they can stay active over the summer months.
“It’s also a way for the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences to be a good neighbour and to embrace the community we work and study in,” Cook said.
Val Mowez, principal of Pinkham School, said that as the end of the school year approaches, her Grade 6 students excitedly ask her when they’ll each get a basketball.
“Basketball is one of our students’ favourite sports,” Mowez said. “Providing them with the equipment needed to play the game empowers them and gives them an opportunity that they otherwise would not have. Many of our students couldn’t afford to buy a basketball, so this creates equity. Everybody can have their very own ball.”
Basketballs for Inner City Kids was started more than 10 years ago by Dennis Bayomi, who works for the George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation. The Rady Faculty took over the program and formalized it seven years ago. Cook said they’ve given away about 6,000 basketballs over the years.
Program partners include Basketball Manitoba, which orders the balls in bulk, and the U of M Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, which stores the balls until they’re needed. A team of volunteers helps inflate and deliver the basketballs to the schools.
“When we deliver the basketballs, the kids’ eyes are huge,” Cook said. “And the Grade 5 kids are saying, ‘I can’t wait until next year!’”
Donations to the Basketballs for Inner-City Kids program can be made here.