Safe & Peaceful grantee uses baseball and softball as a way to come together and celebrate South Shore youth
While sports/competitive participation are the core drivers of Lost Boyz Inc. offering, program coordinator Lee Smith recognizes that, too often, South Side youth need to have opportunities to just "be."
"I take the kids on local field trips to broaden their horizons — I once took them to UIC (University of Illinois-Chicago) and they thought we had gone out of town," Smith recalls.
Since its 2008 founding, Lost Boyz has sponsored a banquet to say "thank you" to its participants, an acknowledgment of their athletic-related accomplishments but also a celebratory nod to their grit as they keep a positive focus on life.
"We use sports, high-intensity mentoring, intervention, and social entrepreneurship activities as a way to decrease violence among youth," Smith says. "It's important to have this banquet every year because it shows the kids how much we appreciate them for all the hard work they have done. These kids have to go through [a lot] just to get here and practice for their games. Kids nowadays need an incentive to go that extra mile outside of school, and that's what we try to do at Lost Boyz."
Each year, nearly 100 youth participate in Lost Boyz programming, says office manager Frank Sartin (After School Matters is a sponsor.) While most of its participants live in South Shore, the organization is open to all youth, and they can remain active until age 24. "Sports is our way of reaching young people and getting them involved in something that excites them," he says, and they hope to add hockey to its activities.
This year's banquet was held at the organization's headquarters, 1818 E. 71st Street. Dozens of youth and their parents attended. Tieara Lesure and Jalil Anderson, junior coaches for the softball and baseball teams, respectively, were among the attendees.
Lesure, a senior at a South Side alternative school, has been involved with the Lost Boyz for five years; she got interested after coming to watch her friends play ball. She says she found redemption in the organization after circumstances required that she leave her first high school.
"My sister got into a fight, and I jumped in to help her," Lesure said. "I was not kicked out of school but my sister was, and when that happened my mom decided to transfer both of us."
"It feels good to be part of something positive like the Lost Boyz," she said.
Lesure went on to recruit Anderson, who is studying criminal justice at Olive-Harvey College. "I am a pitcher on the baseball team, and I want to play professional baseball eventually," he said. "If baseball does not fulfill my needs, then I would like to be a police officer."
Parents at the banquet said Lost Boyz is a blessing to youth, especially those living in South Shore.
"I have two sons, ages 12 and 13, that participate with the Lost Boyz, and I thank God for this organization. Being involved with the Lost Boyz keeps them out of trouble," said Mionka Kennedy, a single mom. "Kids are getting shot every day in South Shore, they walk around doing nothing. I don't want to see my boys end up like that."
This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.