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This article was archived on 5/12/2017

Tulsa Midnight Basketball Brightens Outlook for Hard-Hit­ Area

Councilors Ben Kimbro and Jeannie Cue joined community leaders to announce Tulsa Midnight Basketball, a new local chapter of the successful national program that will be introduced this summer to help at-risk youth in the economically challenged areas bordering 61st and Peoria.

The free program serves children ages 12-18 that live in the service area of the South Tulsa Community House. Those boundaries are from 5lst Street to 71st Street and from Riverside Drive to Lewis Ave. Games will be played at Spirit Life Church, 5345 S. Peoria Ave.

The first 60 kids to email info@tulsamidnightbasketball.com or call 918-998-2255 will be enrolled. If there are more than 60 kids, a waiting list will be established. Games will be played at Spirit Life Church, 5345 S. Peoria Ave.

Sheila Dills, who was appointed by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to a steering committee to help offer solutions for the area, founded the Tulsa chapter of Midnight Basketball in March and said play will begin June 16.

Dills, who is the president of the Women's Oklahoma Golf Association, said she was eager for the opportunity to help offer a structured option for area youth in which in addition to playing the game they love they will be exposed to community leaders and successful role models. "I heard the stories of children fighting in the apartment parking lots for entertainment due to a lack of recreational activities and it really moved me." Dills said.

Dills teamed up with the Tulsa Community Foundation for non-profit support and former Oral Roberts University basketball coach Scott Sutton has agreed to serve as the program's honorary director.

"Scott was so supportive and is going to play a significant role with the program in addition to being our Honorary Director." Dills said. Sutton said he is always looking for ways to give back to the community and when this opportunity surfaced, it was a perfect fit for him.

City Councilors Ben Kimbro and Jeannie Cue serve the districts that encompass the 61st and Peoria area, and they teamed up with Sheila Dill to offer support in launching the program. ''I'm proud and excited to see such great collaboration between our public service, philanthropic and faith-based communities. Investing in better outcomes for youth is always a winner," Councilor Kimbro said.

"This program is a collaboration between the public and private escorts to enhance the 61st and Peoria area, and is part of a continuing effort to improve the quality of life for our residents," Councilor Cue said.

National Midnight Basketball League Chapters are in 54 U.S. cities and studies have shown that they consistently help reduce crime rates in their communities.

Helping Sutton  run the basketball program will be former Jenks and Oklahoma State basketball player Nick Sidorakis Jr., as well as area high school coaches. Volunteers from the Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa Fire Department will play large roles.

TPD officer Amley "Popsey" Floyd is in charge of community policing efforts in the area and said he is excited about  the program's possibilities for positive change.

"This program is exactly what this area needs," Floyd said. "I think this will give the kids a lot of hope."

Officers will not only be on hand at the gym, but will follow up with the kids after the program.

"We have a very special group of people working in the 61st Street and Peoria area doing some wonderful things and I am honored to serve with them." Dills said. "Tulsa Midnight Basketball is just a small part of what can ultimately happen in this area. I hope Tulsa Midnight Basketball will be a catalyst for other opportunities to develop."

Tulsa Midnight Basketball will be held every Friday night starting from June 16-August 4 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Spirit Life Church Gymnasium. Each Friday a different speaker will lead workshops covering topics such as:

. Community programs

. Health Awareness

. Conflict Resolution

. Self Esteem and Self Awareness Issues

. Drug & Alcohol Abuse Awareness & Counseling

. How to Deal With Peer Pressure

. Understanding and Coping with Gang Influence

. Gun Violence

Oral Roberts University students will assist with the workshops. Local restaurants such as Rib Crib, Andolini's and Edible Tulsa are donating meals for the program. Dills said private donors and corporations have helped get the program started, but funds are still needed to pay the full costs of the first year's pilot program. Tax­ deductible donations can be made at tulsamidnightbasketball.com.