- Eric Schwartzberg Staff Writer
An option for teens with free time on their hands this summer is back in Middletown.
The Midnight Basketball Teen Night at the Middletown Area YMCA, 1020 Manchester Ave., was created by a group of community members led by Middletown resident and Middletown Schools spokeswoman Destini Burns.
“These events were originally created to address the growing concern that young people grades six and up in Middletown and the surrounding areas didn’t have a safe place to hang out and frequent during the summer months,” said Cara Roach, membership sales/services and program director for the Middletown YMCA.
In an effort to fill a much needed void, Burns, along with other Middletown community members, approached the local Middletown Area Family YMCA to see about being the host location for the first Midnight Basketball that was held in summer 2016, Roach said.
In collaboration with the Middletown Division of Police and local non-profits, area youth flocked to the Middletown Area Family YMCA every other Friday to play basketball, listen to music, and build effective relationships with caring community members and leaders, she said.
“It fits directly into what we do at the YMCA,” said Angela Howard, executive director for the Middletown Area YMCA. “Our cause is to strengthen our community and we have three focus areas, which are youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. It fit directly in with all three of our focus areas, so why wouldn’t we partner with someone in the community to help the children in our community, fulfill a cause to strengthen our community.”
As the Middletown YMCA celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, they recently conducted a community leader’s input session to gather information from the Middletown community, she said.
“One result showed that one of our focuses for the future should be continuing to provide a safe place and programming to the teens in our community,” Roach said.
Attendance for Midnight Basketball has continually increased and the program has been well received by members of the community, whether they are parents of the teens or not, she said.
“How amazing it is to see the youth back in the building and enjoying this place,” Howard said. “It’s their place.”
Last year’s first session kicked off with 80 participants, Burns said.
“Every Friday after that it just grew and grew and grew to the point where I think at the max, we probably capped at 180 to 200 kids,” she said, noting the program “caught fire” as many teens spread word of it via social media.
This year’s first session launched May 26 with more than 100 participants, Roach said.
Remaining pick-up games from 9 p.m. to midnight this summer will take place June 9 (basketball and Hip Hop dance class), June 23 (basketball and open swim), July 7 (basketball) and July 21 (basketball and open swim).
Cost is $2 per students, and teens must arrive no later than 9:30 p.m.
To sponsor one of the Midnight Basketball events, or provide additional programming during Midnight Basketball, email email@example.com.