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Coalition wants to keep children out of trouble, active for the season

MANATEE — A coalition of local nonprofits, law enforcement and NFL star power has emerged to try to take away the age-old boredom excuse for kids getting into trouble during the summer when school is out.

The Safe Summer Coalition announced two months of basketball and football camps, barbecues and other events designed to get kids off the street this summer and get them into activities.

“Idle time with kids is a disaster,” Boys and Girls Club of Manatee Executive Director Carl Weeks declared at a press conference Monday announcing the coalition.

Members of a half dozen nonprofit groups met at Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit headquarters to discuss the upcoming drive to get kids involved in activities.

“It is proven that violence and juvenile delinquency just go on the rise during the summer,” said Manatee County YMCA President Sean Allison. “Anything that we can do that’s positive for our kids is a big help.”

The goal of the coalition is to come up with as many events and activities as possible for kids to attend, Allison said, calling on all outreach groups, churches and community centers to get involved and come up with at least one activity or event for kids this summer.

Three local athletes who have gone onto NFL stardom have already stepped up. They are working with the YMCA to put on football camps each Saturday in July.

Fabian Washington, Mike Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be holding the camps beginning July 10 at Blackstone Park in Palmetto, followed by camps at Harlee Middle School and Bayshore High School during the next three weeks.

The NFL players also will be holding the celebrity basketball slam jam at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Manatee Convention Center.

Washington spoke at the press conference about how community programs and events made a huge difference in his life growing up.

He also urged members of the community to give their time to the Safe Summer Coalition.

“The more the merrier,” he said.

The coalition is in need of donations of time, transportation for kids, food, drinks and mentors over the summer, Allison said.

“Even if you have some water or Gatorade you want to donate for the kids playing football, we can use it,” he said.

For more information, call the coalition at (941) 713-4344.

“We can never give up working for our kids,” said YMCA at-risk youth Director Jerry Parrish. “Call the number and let’s have a safe summer.”