Coast to coast, border to border, our country is filled with communities where something inspiring has happened over the years. In these cities and towns, athletics has helped transform the lives of impoverished boys and girls for the better.
Young people who otherwise might surrender to the desperate conditions of their neighborhoods instead find hope through the guidance and enthusiasm of coaches and other supportive adults. Through that experience, these boys and girls learn important values: Self-discipline. Team spirit. Self-confidence. Fair play.
This is one of the great stories in American civic life.
But that effort often doesn’t come without struggle. What happened two years at the youth football fields in Omaha’s Levi Carter Park provides an illustration.
Thieves, cloaked in darkness, stole into the north Omaha complex — at the time a superbly refurbished and bustling athletic facility — and devastated it, all for the sake of making off with the wiring and copper plumbing. The damage was so severe that the city closed the football complex.
Now city parks officials, at the direction of Mayor Jean Stothert, commendably are meeting with youth football coach Gannie Clark as well as Terrence Mackey of the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club to look into the possibilities of reopening the north Omaha site, known as the Jerry Parks Youth Football Complex.
Though it’s still early and no one is denying the scale of the challenge, Clark says he’s optimistic in the wake of the city’s response thus far.
This development shows the value of community engagement from the Oct. 17 town-hall meeting Stothert held in north Omaha. It reflects well, too, on the dedication of Clark, who brought the issue to Stothert’s attention during the meeting.
As The World-Herald’s Christopher Burbach explained in his reporting, most of the boys on Clark’s Heavy Hitters teams have been tenants at the Omaha Housing Authority. If a way can be found to reopen the facility even on a limited basis, Omaha has an opportunity to send an important message to young people in great need of support and encouragement.
The message: This is a city with dedicated adults who give generously of their time and spirit to see to the needs of the next generation. A city awake to the challenges of all its citizens.
Such a message, buttressed by the hard work and kindness of adult volunteers, is what has turned young people’s lives around in decades past. Today, the challenge remains.
So does the need to act.