During the current COVID-19 pandemic, home is the safest place for just about everyone. Outside interactions carry a degree of risk and the last six months have been harrowing to say the least. The United States has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. With over six million confirmed infections and 200,000 dead, this crisis seems far from over.
Home isn’t always the safest place for kids, though. I know that’s a jarring statement, but for millions of kids across the country, it’s true. The hood is slang for neighborhood and sometimes that means everything and everyone around you may not be so neighborly. The term “at-risk” is used to describe kids who may be in danger of dropping out of school, joining gangs, going to prison, and/or becoming homicide victims.
According to the CDC, the number one cause of death for Black males from birth to age 44 is homicide. For every other race, ethnicity and gender group in this age range, the CDC cites unintentional injuries (accidents) as the number one cause of death. There are non-profit organizations whose sole purpose is to keep kids off the streets. They lessen the risk for at-risk kids.
Whether it’s afterschool tutoring, a chess club, sports or a mentoring program, these organizations provide an essential service to the community. They save lives by giving kids a positive alternative to the negative influences around them. For me, Lift For Life Gym was my home away from home. The gym was always open. Being there gave me an incentive to get my homework and household chores done.
These organizations have had to pivot due to COVID-19. They can no longer open their doors to any kid who may happen by. If they are open at all, they have to limit their numbers, and by doing that, they have to limit their services, and by doing that, their impact is limited. Many have switched over to providing necessary meals for families, giving kids school supplies, or helping out with utility bills.
Lift For Life was my home even when I wasn’t certain where home would be. I had at least 15 different addresses before age 18. This is not uncommon among at-risk kids. When you’re poor, rent increases can’t be absorbed. A job loss or even a decrease in hours worked means you have to move.
After six months of COVID-19, there’s no doubt organizations have lost touch with kids. Unfortunately, the streets never lock down. Negative influences can’t spell quarantine. Afterschool programs are among the most effective anti-violence mechanisms we have. For all the things we want to reopen fully, we need these organizations to get back to normal. The cracks we’re afraid kids will fall into have become chasms.
We need to do all we can to end this pandemic, not only for the obvious reasons, but for the ones we’ve all but forgotten as well.
You can support the St. Louis Sports Foundation and its programs by clicking on the following link – https://sportsmanship.org/donate/.
The Sports Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Your generous gift is tax deductible.