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Great timing, collaboration paved the way for newly-renovated Spryfield basketball court

The new basketball court will provide countless hours of fun for children - like these two young athletes who attended the unveiling of the court on October 28.
The new basketball court will provide countless hours of fun for children - like these two young athletes who attended the unveiling of the court on October 28. - Contributed

It’s been 12 years since the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Halifax expanded to Spryfield. The location owned by St. Paul’s Home Mission was perfect, although it did come with an unusual, if not unusable, backyard. Overgrown, only the asphalt remained as a reminder of the once-upon-a-time basketball court.

Henk van Leeuwen, the current chief executive offider of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Halifax (BGCGH), says when he joined BGCGH he quickly heard about the need to refurbish the court in Spryfield.

“It did not take long to convince me it had to be done,” says van Leeuwen. “The kids were playing soccer and tag in the parking lot rather than playing down the hill…It was a safety issue.”

Before: Years of neglect made this play space, in the back of the Spryfield Boys and Girls Club, unusable.
Before: Years of neglect made this play space, in the back of the Spryfield Boys and Girls Club, unusable.

The refurbishment of the court made it to the BGCGH’s wish list every year, but it was a costly capital project and inevitably cut. In the last couple of years, for example, BGCGH had to purchase buses and pave a parking lot, taking up the lion’s share of the available dollars.

After: It took a municipality, and today the basketball court and the rest of the yard at Boys and Girls Club in Spryfield is ready for action.
After: It took a municipality, and today the basketball court and the rest of the yard at Boys and Girls Club in Spryfield is ready for action.

Timing

Asked what changed to make the upgrade possible this year, van Leeuwen says simply, “timing is everything.”

“The piece that sparked it was a $20,000 grant from the (Halifax Regional Municipality) community grants program,” he explains.

At the same time, St. Paul’s Board of Directors had a look and assured the project aligned with its mission.

“We had a connection to a contractor, and they had a vision,” he adds.

van Leeuwen says they were very lucky. Ocean Contractors developed the plan for the basketball court and then donated part of their time. When a call went out for steps, Grey Top Construction donated the steps and built the stairway leading to the court. A private donor came through with funds for the posts, backboards and nets. All that was left to do was paint the lines. On Oct. 28, the kids, staff, volunteers and community members unveiled the new court.

van Leeuwen says he is “really happy for the kids at the club,” who now have a large and safe place to play, but also notes it is great for the long-time staff and adds, “it is nice to be able to meet staff’s needs.”

4,000 youth

There are seven Boys and Girls Clubs operating in HRM, with services going to approximately 4,000 youth in the area, per year, according to van Leeuwen.

These clubs offer (more) affordable after-school programs and summer day camps for children in the area. van Leeuwen says Spryfield also runs a Raise the Grade program for junior and senior high school students who meet weekly, in the evening, to work on homework and academic skills. The program, which started just over six years ago, has graduated more than 120 students so far.

“We attend their graduations,” says van Leeuwen, “and they credit the program for helping them.”

To find a Boys and Girls Club near you or to volunteer with a Boys and Girls Club, visit www.bgcgh.ca.

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