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Opinions Letters to the Editor Editorials Columns
Recreation Needs To Be There For All Children
By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / July 8, 1998
The first thing to do in trying to solve a problem is to realize that you have a problem.
In St. John Parish, unlike St. Charles and St. James parishes, St. John doesnot, I repeat, does not have a recreational program. Yes, we have a fewpeople who participate. The only purpose for the few who participate is topick an all-star team for a select few coaches and players.
Does it sound like sour grapes on my part? No. My grandson was goodenough to make the all-star basketball team two years straight.
In the basketball league last year, there were only three teams parishwide in my grandson’s age group. Now, that’s a joke!This week, I read that the St. John Parish baseball season was cut shortbecause all-star coaches and players needed to be chosen to participate in a Dizzy Dean All-Star Tournament next week. I personally could care lessabout the Dizzy Dean All-Star Tournament. I’m more concerned about theaverage, or below-average child, who just wanted to play, have fun and belong to something. (Believe me, there’s no place for them in theprogram.) I don’t think the little money the parish has for recreationshould be spent on a select few coaches and players. Notice, I said littlemoney.
The reason St. John Parish has little money is because the people will notsupport a poor, non-functioning program. Who suffers the most? Thechildren who cannot afford to play in privately-funded recreational programs.
How does having a poor parish recreation system affect the people who can afford private or semi-private activities? I’ll tell you how. Childrenwho are excluded have nothing to do, and it’s easy for them to get into trouble, turn to drugs and commit crime. When this happens, we as acommunity lose.
Who gains if we have a healthy recreational program in St. John Parish?Everybody! Am I against private recreational groups? Definitely not! I had five grandchildren in such programs this year. Some of the successfulprograms are NOAH, LARAYO, FORCE, Reserve Recreation, Garyville Recreation and Ascension Catholic. If I excluded any, please excuse me. Itwas not intentional.
I’ve had the privilege of directing a youth basketball program at the Reserve Christian gym for the past three years. We had as many as 140young boys from the ages of 5 to 13 participate. It didn’t cost any money -no registration fee, no paid coaches or employees, and no all-star team.
The kids had fun, the parents enthusiastically supported it, and everyone was a winner. The only problem I had as the director was that too manypeople volunteered to help.
The reason I desire a healthy, parishwide recreational program is because I’m selfish. I selfishly want a better community that cares about childrenover personal egos.
What’s the answer? No, it’s not money. It’s time for some people inauthority to make some decisions that will take guts. Yes, a few peoplewill disagree, but the majority of the children will benefit.
I’ll be at the next parish council meeting and hope to be on the agenda with some solutions, instead of just publicly commenting.
Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.
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