Niagara Gazette — Eric Davis sees it all the time.
Young, inner-city kids, mostly elementary school-aged, getting a sparkle in their eyes as they show off their hoops skills in front of their friends.
Davis, the director of Cataract City Basketball League, believes his program has been successful in giving younger kids in Niagara Falls goals to shoot for in life, both on and off the court.
He also acknowledges that keeping the program alive and extending it to kids of all ages in need isn’t easy, especially in a community where poverty is high and public and private financing is often scarce.
“We’re trying to get these kids off the streets,” Davis said. “That’s the biggest thing. There’s no recreation here for them or anything. I feel like we could do a lot more.”
Davis is one of several volunteers who have been working in recent years in an effort to grow the Cataract City basketball program, which is offered through a collaboration with the local non-violence advocacy group, Operation SNUG. The program is organized under the Amateur Athletic Union and has involved dozens of local students from the fourth to eighth grades in travel league basketball games and tournaments. A league organized by the group this summer at the new Legends Park drew more than 240 participants.
Michael Cole, an associate with Operation SNUG, said the games offer representatives from his group opportunities to engage the young basketball players in conversations about more important matters - school, family and life.
“We’ve got a chance to mentor these kids and give them a chance to see how we are conducting ourselves and carrying ourselves and making them see where we are at. It’s like a trickle-down effect. We’re really just trying to make a difference in their lives,” Cole said.