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National Youth Sports Program provides positive, safe environment for at-risk kids

So many smiles, so much laughter, such determination — it’s easy to see local kids love The University of Toledo’s National Youth Sports Program (NYSP).

And they’re happy to talk about the summer camp that offers sports instruction and educational enrichment.

A camper soared through the air during the long jump on the track.

“Swimming and track are my favorites at NYSP,” Delmar Lightner, 13, said. “Swimming because of the diving board, and track because of the long jump.”

“I love the kids in my group who are nice,” Qarinn Hopings, 10, said. “The counselors are helpful and nice, too.”

“I like NYSP because I like track, and I get better and better every year,” Amarion Jordan, 12, said.

“I love NYSP because of basketball, the new drills, and because we won the championship game,” Miracle Buchanon, 15, said and beamed.

“What I like about NYSP are the different events — the talent show, going fishing, swimming and pool party, and ice cream,” Ariahnna Webb-Bragg, 11, said.

Approximately 150 Toledo youths attended the program this year.

“We offer a safe and nurturing environment for children ages 9 to 16 to enjoy a variety of age-appropriate recreational and educational activities such as swimming, track, giant foosball, origami making, fishing, soccer, basketball, parachute games, theme days and more,” said Dr. Ruthie Kucharewski, professor and chair in the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, and NYSP director. “Many children do not have the opportunity to attend other programs or activities in the city, and our program on campus provides bus service, a free hot lunch, a free medical physical, a free T-shirt, and mentorship from adults from the community and campus, UT student-athletes and UT recreation therapy majors who enjoy working with children.”

UT football player Nate Jeppesen, a counselor with the National Youth Sports Program, petted a giraffe during a field trip to Indian Creek Petting Zoo in Lambertville, Mich.

Starting in 1968, UT was one of the first universities in the country to offer the federally funded program sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Kucharewski said even after federal funding for the program was cut, UT continued to operate the camp through fundraising, in-kind donations, and commitment from the University to provide some funding and facilities.

This summer, youths enjoyed a wide variety of enriching activities, including the Hometown Heroes series, which brought in local speakers. UT Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop; Toledo fire fighters; Jordan Strack, WTOL sports and news broadcaster; and Scott High School Principal Carnell Smith talked to the campers.

Children attending UT’s National Youth Sports Program fed goats during a field trip to Indian Creek Petting Zoo in Lambertville, Mich.

“The first week went better than I could have imagined. Seeing the campers enjoy the activities planned and connecting with their group leaders is an amazing experience. The kids truly look forward to coming to camp each day,” said Claire Copa, project liaison for NYSP. “The camp finished up strong this year with several other activities — a talent show, pool party, and field trips to Indian Creek Petting Zoo and Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs at Olander Park.”

Copa cited recreational therapy as one of her favorite parts of the NYSP experience, since many of the campers would not have access to it otherwise. She spoke about the importance of teaching children not only how to be physically healthy, but to develop emotional health as well.

For more information on NYSP, visit utoledo.edu/hhs/clinics/nysp.

To give a gift to the National Youth Sports Program Fund, contact the UT Foundation at 419.530.7730 or go to give2ut.utoledo.edu and search for NYSP.

UT President Sharon L. Gaber, right, posed for a photo with this year’s National Youth Sports Program participants and counselors.