When Shana Starks put together a basketball tournament for kids in the community earlier this summer, she expected it to be a one-time thing.
But the young people — many of whom, she said, were at risk of becoming casualties of the streets — loved the event and wanted more.
“It was like, we need to do another one, we need to keep these kids off of the streets, because there’s a lot of violence going on,” said Starks, founder of the nonprofit Sisters Supporting Sisters. “These are kids from the inner city, they have nothing else to do.”
She put together a program called Influencers Health & Wellness Basketball that meets weekly at Surratte Park in Dunleith. It serves kids age 9 to 15 primarily from Wilmington and New Castle and includes additional time with coaches during the week, as well as periodic guests like dance squads and entrepreneurs.
The influencers in question are orgs and entrepreneurs who’ve sponsored the teams:
- Futures First Gaming
- The Sold Firm
- Heart & Hustle
- M.T. Real Estate
- Black Label
- Soul Imprint Inc.
- Blessed Up Inc.
- The Institution Inc.
The program will end (for now, at least) with its Streetball League and Tournament, Back to School Edition on Saturday, Aug. 21, at Surrate Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Like the program itself, it will offer more than just streetball, with mental health and wellness resources, vendors and a school supplies giveaway, combining one of Sisters Supporting Sisters’ annual kids events with the tournament and expo.
Tables for mental health organizations and resources are free and are (at the time of publication) still available. Tables for product and food vendors are still open as well for a small fee that supports the program. To register for a table, or to sign up as an influencer team sponsor, go to hwbasketball.eventbrite.com.
While sponsors and grants, like one they just received from New Castle County, are always needed, Starks said there are also ways to help that don’t involve donating money. Instead, “we just want you to be present for the kids to see that people care about them.”
After the tournament, Starks says she’ll be focused on launching another youth-facing nonprofit aimed at schools and detention centers called the Musical Emotional and Mental Awareness program. Music will be a big part of it, as will life skills.
“We want to bring home economics back,” she said. “We want to teach kids how to cook, how to do laundry.”
Mainly, the goal is to help kids feel safe.
“We interviewed the kids and asked, do you feel safe in your community. A lot of them said no,” Starks said. And when asked what they wanted their leaders to do, many said they wanted to be able to do more things like take field trips and participate in athletics.
“They’re looking for stuff to do.”