By Missy Wattenbarger
When the Cumberland County Youth Center recently started closing down its day care and after school programs, parents feared the worst. Many thought that the center’s popular sports programs would be next and the center would shut its doors for good.
“The people of Cumberland County need to know that we’re not going anywhere,” said Steve Brown with the Cumberland County Youth Center. “We’re going to be here for more years to come.”
Instead, the board of directors decided to shift gears and transform the center into an all-sports facility that caters to both youth and adults alike.
"We're trying to continue growing with our community…," said Brown.
The center is no stranger to change. Before it was called a “youth center,” the facility catered to only girls, with the TAD Center serving as the county’s boys club. When the TAD Center changed its focus, the Cumberland County Youth Center was created to offer the community coed sports to youth of all ages and disabilities.
In the late ‘90s, the center started taking in children as part of a day care program and later, in 2003, for an after school program. Both became hugely popular with parents, which the board of directors was not quite prepared for, noted Brown.
“We had so many join the after school program and with the day care... it was no longer a viable option,” said Brown. “So, basically, what we’ve done is that we’ve seen that the community has a need for kids to come somewhere and have something to do than to get into trouble. So we’ve went all sports...”
They also noticed that there are few local competitive sports programs for people 17 years or older.
"... After 17 there’s really nothing else to do in Cumberland County...So what we’ve done is open... it up from 18 to whatever age...to come over and play and bring their teams, ” Brown stated.
This year, the Youth Center has started an adult basketball program, with competitions taking place through May 11. They are also looking forward to offering adult softball again, which they started two years ago, and the return of its volleyball program in September.
"We used to do it, but we went away from it because we didn’t have the staff to do it. But now we have enough volunteers to do what we have to do and we decided to start it back,” said Brown.
For the youth, there is basketball, softball (April 1-June 14), kickball (July 8-Aug. 23) and baseball (July 13-Aug. 24).
In addition, the center plans on hosting one-pitch softball tournaments twice a month from August through November on Saturdays, starting at 9 a.m. Depending on the number of teams, they will guarantee three games per team and a championship game. Corn hole tournaments are also in the works, with competitions scheduled once a month from August through December.
"We’ll try to break that down into 10-week seasons,” said Brown. “The only six-week season will be for the baseball...There will be playoffs and championship tournaments for all of the programs we offer.”
Kids like Emery Baragona, 7, and Dalton Tollett, 14, are already excited about the schedule.
"I love it,” said Tollett, who has been playing at the center since he was four years old.
"They’ve always been good at being fair and having fun and making you want to come back each year,” said his mom, Amy.
Brown is also making it his goal to help the Youth Center become a place for children to be productive, learn character and how to interact with other people and be a part of a team.
"...If you’re competitive, it’s a good place to come because you can be competitive here,” he said. “If you want... a family atmosphere, have fun and enjoy the game and enjoy the friendship and camaraderie you’re going to build here with a team..., this is the place to be because everybody has a good time.”
The prices for the adult sports are $250 per team. For the youth softball and basketball programs, the cost is $50 per child or $150 for a family of three or more. The cost for youth kickball is $25 per child. The cost for the cornhole competition is $50 per team of four.
For more information about the Youth Center’s programs, or to volunteer with the nonprofit organization, call 484-9736 or 787-5468; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit them on Facebook. The center is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m.
"We’re here for the long haul," Brown concluded, "and these kids will always have a place to go and participate, and someday they will take over and teach the next generation that comes along.”